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Inspired by those who do, Stef — a friend from Imperial building awesome mobile charging solutions for Africa!


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We are all the same, deep down. In everyone one of us is the same basic ingredients. Uniqueness is found in our journeys, for these are what bring shape our lives.

2008 11 14 at 17 23 06

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西藏 Tibet

2012 05 11 at 18 27 442012 05 11 at 18 33 05At 2800m in Shangrila, northern Yunnan, we are halfway up to Tibet. We feel it in the mild altitude sickness, and in the people, a mixture of Han Chinese and Tibetan ethnic groups. Once called Zhongdian, it’s name changed by the government for reasons of grandeur and to foster tourism.

Rapid change has swept this town, and, as it looms over Tibet, Buddhist Shangrila serves as reminder that half of the Tibetan plateau cultural region was already fully incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan over fifty years ago.

Shangrila feels very touristy, and the outsiders have done to the old town what they did to Lijiang, and turned it turned it into a bit of a souvenir mall, but there is magic here still. I bump into an old man and his deaf older friend heading up the steps of Bǎijī temple and join them as they spin the giant prayer wheel at the top. They are locals making a pilgrimage, a dying breed perhaps, among swarms of tourists from all over China, come to view, and invest, and change, a place whose cultural fragility is wavering under the weight of modern economics and politics.


2012 05 12 at 10 35 07


Now we are above the clouds, flying into Lhasa as foreigners can’t travel legally by land into the Tibet region. Only a little below us, great peaks poke through frothy cloud, joining us at 18, 19, 20,000 feet. We are heading up onto the rooftop of the world. I have always wanted to go, since I first had an interest in Buddhism. Finally, I am going to Tibet. Ten days is short, some might say too short, but I hope long enough to discover what draws me there so.


We arrive at the airport and immediately fighter jets parked on standby ready to scramble remind us of the strategic importance of Tibet to China. A middle aged man is throwing up in the toilet, poor guy. Some people are more prone to it than others. We are at around 3,600 metres above sea level here, which is 11,000 feet, well above the threshold which causes symptoms of low oxygen content in the air. How much lower? Around 40% less than at sea level. Not a picnic for any body not yet acclimatised.

Outside we catch a first glimpse of our tour guide for the next ten days, Tsomo. She is short, pretty, and stands waving at us to follow her. She drapes Tibetan white scarves around our necks, a traditional Tibetan sign of welcome and mutual respect. Tsomo is bubbly and chatty as we travel back to Lhasa. 




We are driving to Lhasa. There are police checks everywhere. The military is clearly visible. An ominous looking camera sits on the dashboard facing its occupants. The sky is so deep blue, and baron hills roll upwards from a flat valley floor, the river weaving and threading between them.



2012 05 14 at 12 23 12

Drepung Monestary sits in the hills a little outside of Lhasa. As we walk up, beggars scurry away from militarised police patrolling the entrance. There is a metal detector and rigorous security check for locals visiting. At its height Drepung had around 10,000 monks. Today there are a few hundred.

We walk around inside. Countless chambers dedicated to Kings, High Lamas and Buddhas are intricately decorated with spectacular works of art; statues, paintings, drapings. The ambiance a relaxing smell of insense. Pilgrims add hot melted butter to lamps as offerings. It is difficult to distinguish between rooms for my naive western eye, yet from that day until leaving Tibet I would not tire of wandering the great Monestarys and breathing a magic unique to this place.

A2012 05 14 at 15 54 08t Sera Monestary we witness spectacular scenes of debate between the monks. There is a real authenticity in their performances, and most barely blink at the hordes of tourists surrounding the enclosure. It is a joy to watch. But a thought must be spared for whatever truths about what life is really like for monks behind the closed doors of the monestories we visited. We can only imagine, but all evidence by those monks who have spoken up points to an ongoing eroding of freedom of thought in Tibetan Buddhism. 

Jokhang looms above the square in central Lhasa, the most famous and holy of all religious sites in Tibet. The view from its ramparts is stunning. Hills surround Lhasa, the Potala palace stands solid on its rock. And always this deep, piercing blue of the sky, broken only by light, fluffy clouds. 

2012 05 15 at 11 41 39The magnificent Potala palace is as the Dalai Lama says, merely a museum, stripped of its symbolic importance by the authorities. Or is it? Droves of locals tour with the foreigners, paying their respects in each of the endless chambers. The atmosphere still holds a magic no rules can disrupt. Tsomo explains the Kings, Buddhas and Lamas that each chamber is associated with. With each passing of the central icon, a little cupping of hands and bow of her head, a prayer whispered, and we move on. The paintings, the smells, the mysticism, so poignant and other worldly yet reassuringly familiar. These are holy places. There is a joy in my heart to be here that I can’t explain. It is as constant as my curiosity in all that we seeing.

2012 05 16 at 12 28 49

We are driving to Shannan. The river bends and splits, ribbons of silver threading a wide, flat valley, the other side of which is barely visible. Stark rock, baron, pure hills, and the blue. Silence, but for the buzzing of insects on the high plain. 

We walk slowly up the steep slope to Yumbulagang, the first palace in Tibet, built by her first king. This too, is a holy place, visited by pilgrims from afar. It is small inside, just as magical as the Jokhang. 

2012 05 16 at 14 52 272012 05 16 at 14 49 20Outside an old woman with a weathered but disarmingly cheerful face dashes up the hill ahead of Alice to help put up our prayer flags. A boy is standing on the ramparts of the palace, watching the valley below. He climbs the hill, and a short while after, Alice and I follow. Suddenly, he drops his coke bottle by accident and it tumbles down the steep, rocky hillside out of site. I climb down and fetch it for him. He is local, wants to be a driver one day. We don’t speak much, but when we leave to head back down from the palace, he follows, a short distance behind. We get into our car, and he is out of sight. Driving out of the car park, he suddenly appears on his bike, following our car. We round a bend, surely the last glimpse of him, but no, he is still behind, peddling hard after us. Finally, the jeep outpaces his bike, and he is gone. Who was this boy?

At Samye Monastery, the oldest in Tibet, there is a ceremony in honour of one of the protector deities in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. At the top, there is a statue that catches my eye. A Bodhisvatta sits in the normal posture, cross legged, but sitting on him, facing him, is a female figure. Their faces are close and intimate, but not touching. Her arms are around him. The statue is suggestive, but also calmly spiritual. It is a celebration of a truth that most religious art I’ve seen never admits.

2012 05 17 at 11 55 17

We are standing watching the ceremony. Monks are lined up behind a lama who is performing various rituals around a fire in front of him. The monks all have pieces of grain behind their ears. They are chanting together in Tibetan. There is a build up of sound. It begins with faster chanting, then louder, then a high pitched instruments start, a clanging of some percussion, then blasting horns, deep drums. As if the elevating the prayers to a higher place, the music reaches a crescendo. Finally the deep, powerful horns sound, blasting through our consciousness, vibrating our very souls. It is a symphony. Then it dies down, and the chanting continues. Over and over this cycle repeats, chanting giving way to a moving musical crescendo. My words are useless to describe it. It is a unique and enchanting experience. We stand and watch for a long time. 

2012 05 18 at 16 24 25

We are driving North from Lhasa towards a 5000m high pass, beyond which is Namcuo Lake. NianQing TangGu looms out of the mountain range ahead. Over 7000 metres, it is a domed top perfect white in the morning sun. The sky, ever such deep blue that it is as if there is no sky between ourselves and space itself. It is just empty.

2012 05 18 at 14 22 08Namcuo Lake is a crystal clear symphony of blue and grey. The lake reflects the sky’s blue, almost perfectly but with its own character. Pure gradients from grey rock to pure turquoise rise from the banks to distant water, just as the sky’s light blue deepens and intensifies as one looks further from the horizon into the nothingness of space above.

Everywhere prayer flags, offerings. Children begging intensively for money. The yak keepers hang around, all want business from our photos. The purity of nature and relgious offerings broken sharply by a reminder of the have and have nots, a  desperate need and desire for money, a change, perhaps, happening all over Tibet. 

Alice and I wander a little further and the shore is deserted, but for remarkably huge piles of ice and snow. They stand in contrast to the blue water by her banks, as if place there by accident. Where did it come from?

We are in Shigatse, at one of the biggest Monasteries in Tibet. It is hotter here. There are memorials to the previous Dalai lama, and the government sponsored current Panchen Lama. Photos of the Dalai Lama used to be allowed, but not any more. Much has been cracked down upon since the 2008 riots. Now a mention, or a photo of the Tibetans most holy figure might mean imprisonment, which means interrogation and possible torture. Now, monks are watched over and live in fear. Now, some even feel they must prematurely end this life, to seek freedom in the next. It is again a sad time for Tibet, but the joy of their magnificent land and people sings to me louder than the oppression. I only hope the same is true for ordinary Tibetans. We didn’t feel secure talking to many. Next time I come here, I must go much deeper. There is much I have to learn about this place.

To Everest. Embarrassingly unprepared, I don’t even know what it looks like. Do you? The tallest mountain on our little planet. I supposed it was just another peak in the magnificent eastern himalayan range. 

2012 05 20 at 18 01 04Our land-rover gets a dramatic puncture 5km along a 100km dirt track towards the north base camp. We are already running late, because the policeman in Shigatse who is meant to authorise papers to come here was out of the office all morning. Another big bump, only this one followed by a loud bang then a violent hiss lasting only the time it took to stop and open our doors. The tyre is completely flat in seconds. Will we make it to the peak before sunset? A nagging desire in my mind. *Please can we get there in time, please!*.

Tyre replaced with the help of a fellow tour group, of which there seem to be hundreds, we are at our last 5000m pass. The magnificent himalayan range stands before us. The last geographical barrier between ourselves and India, our destination. I barely have time to reflect. We are about to make the journey through these ancient walls that divide India and China, the two largest nations on earth, my home for the last four years. Everest stands in the middle, pyramid like and grand, its peak completely masked by cloud. We linger not long. The sun is setting. There is a long way to go. We are nervous, and excited. Everywhere dust, dust thrown up by endless passing groups. We are not alone.

It must be less than thirty minutes to sunset. We are through our last checkpoint, a police station placed in a village not far from the valley leading up to the camp and peak. We caught a glimpse of it about half an hour ago, and since then it has been obscured by the hills all around us.

We bump along the valley floor, hardly a track, just a way. It cant be long now. We are at the mouth of the valley that will soon straightens up and leads right to the mountain.

Suddenly, we round a corner, and there she is. Beautifully lit like a beacon in the evening sun, standing 8,848m above the sea, Mount Everest is in front of us, far, but towering over the landscape, framed by dark hills on both sides. The Tibetans and Chinese call her the great mother of the world. This is not just another mountain in the Himalayan range. 

We park to take photos, and I dash up a nearby hill, unperturbed by the 5000m altitude. I lay my camera aside for a second, standing, watching the sun illuminate the awesome sight. Tears. Now it hits me… I begin to understand.

I am standing in a temple. The roof is the dark, deep blue space above. Barron rock and stone pillars line the walls on both sides. I stand before an immovable Buddha, magnificent and lit by none other than the source of life itself, our sun. I stand before God. I stand before life itself. Rejoining Alice, we stand together, both in awe, in a perspective that reflects reality. It is in the end true, we are so small.

That night we slept in a tent in the camp. It was comfortable, but our bodies weren’t. Although we’ve been over 3,500m for more than a week now, the step up again to 5000m is a big one. Alice didn’t sleep. My head felt like it would crack. The canned oxygen we bought with us didnt help much. Morning again, with its different light on the mountain, and crisp, cool air, came as a blessing. As did Richard’s Neurofen.

2012 05 20 at 20 59 20  Version 2

We are driving through the desert plains towards the mountains. Lone horseman walk slowly in the distance, specs on the endless horizon. Nothing is here. Why are they here? 

2012 05 21 at 16 31 25We drive over our final high pass, and finally begin our descent which will take us back down to the tree line, and eventually Nepal. The high, dry, mountain air finally relents, as moisture reaches our lungs. 4500, 4000, 3500 metres. I am watching my GPS. Winding roads and endless hills. Greenery appears. Now the air feels humid. The temperature begins to rise. 3000, 2500 metres. Sky burial sites in the ancient valleys. Abandoned settlements. Waterfalls. Luscious greenery. Behind us, Tibet, ahead, the plains of India. Before that, we enter Nepal. 

At 1800m we stop at the border town for the night. Our amazing guide, Tsomo, suffers low altitude sickness. We eat. We are quiet. Relieved to be somewhere our bodies are more comfortable, but quietly sad to be leaving Tibet. But it is not the end. A seed has been planted. We have seen. We have felt. Beyond our physical experience, we sense, there is more. Tibet always gives, gives gives. Leaving her she asks for nothing back. Only, perhaps, that we don’t forget, lest her gift go to waste. Leaving Tibet, for me, is not an end. It is a beginning.

2012 05 21 at 12 15 56

  1. I was very moved by this reflection. Thank you…

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Why is this grown man posting a photo of his oversized left foot?


Is it some sort of mid – twenties crisis? A complete failure of artistic photographic ability? *Just a phase I’m going through*?


It all starts about 18 years ago. I got my first verruca, on my left foot. That’s an english term for a wart on the bottom of your foot. A wart is a viral infection (not a fungus or bacteria) just under your skin, caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus. It causes the skin to grow erratically and generates a nasty looking shape above the skin.They start really small and can grow quickly. Being in school, my job was to wear a ‘verruca sock’, a plastic sock covering my foot in a kind attempt to prevent it being picked up by other kids. It was eventually frozen off painfully by the doctor, only to reappear a few years later.

By my mid teens, my foot had four or five at the top, and one on the heel. They weren’t going away. Because they weren’t sore except in the heat, I lived with them. 

By my early twenties, the bottom of my foot was completely covered by large warts, like this:, only  worse. On my heel, several large ones had joined together and most of my heel was covered with a huge, deep wart. They grew slowly, and I continued to live with them.

In 2009, just before Alice and I got together, I got my first wart on my right index finger. It grew slowly at first, then to about 5mm, and after a few months I managed to get rid of it in a rather painful mess which I won’t describe as it’s not relevant.

It came back about six months later, and got bigger and bigger. After an attempt to use an over the counter ‘freezing’ medicine from Boots UK to remove it, it grew even faster. By the end of 2010, I was trying all kinds of painful treatments including vinegar. In the mean time, four more warts had begun to appear in between and on top of my toes. Nasty!

Alas, in 2011, the year of my wedding, it returned larger than ever, a horrible 1cm cauliflower on my finger. Busy with wedding preparations, instead of fight it, I took to just covering it with a plaster. If you look at all the photos of my wedding to Alice, you’ll see the top of my right index finger is covered by a white band. It’s for the better, trust me!

Two more appeared on another finger, one growing fast. Clearly I was susceptible to the skin form of Human Papillomavirus, and my body couldn’t fight it. For the first time in over a decade, I decided to try to have the finger ones painfully frozen off with liquid nitrogen. The small ones on my other finger disappeared within a few months. The large one kept coming back, smaller each time. About six months ago, in January 2012, I had my latest freezing session. Since then I was constantly checking for evidence of it returning, which thankfully it didn’t. I paid no attention to my foot any more. I knew I’d be living with warts for the foreseeable future. It had been almost two decades, after all.

As you know, Alice and I have just got back from a long trip around Asia. We’ve been in all kinds of strange and wonderful places, and sometimes dirty, and checking my feet was the last thing to worry about.

Three nights ago, I looked at my foot, and noticed it seemed cleaner than normal. Holding my breath, I took the bedside lamp and shined it to illuminate the full palm. A sight which I’ve not seen my whole life greeted me, and in shock I gazed at my fully grown left foot, completely clean of warts on the top and bottom. Huge, deep verrucas I’ve lived with for ten years, gone. Warts which had grown fast and large on the top of my toes in the past year, gone. 

I struggled to analyse why, how? After so long, why should my body suddenly be able to fight them off during a long trip across China, Tibet and India? Warts are known to just disappear after some time, as I later researched, but still, after two decades, in my case, what triggered it? What’s your opinion?

* The recent freezing of my finger and attempt by the wart to regrow was met with a response from my immune system that eventually fought all the others too?

* Starting my journey with Buddhist meditation. Beginning to see things from a new perspective with new eyes. A calm of mind. 

* Travelling through many difference places and tasting many dishes of varying exquisiteness finally beat my warts?

* Being in Tibet. The spirituality. The high altitude. Lower blood oxygen level?

* Indian water – enough to kill anything?

* Other foot problems (toenail) stimulate my immune system to fight off the virus?

* Travelling through multiple climates and temperatures fooled my warts into confusion, and they came off?

* A critical number of warts in my system get noticed by my body such that it fights them all off at once?

Either way, travelling is usually the time when your immune system is weaker, and you pick up things you didn’t have before, not fight off a cronic virus you’ve been living with for 18 years. I’m happily baffled, but resolved my own response to the whole thing:

* It doesn’t really matter what thing or combination of things caused them to go. I am thankful, and have a better understanding of ‘nothing lasts forever’ or as the Buddhists say, the impermanence of all things, even if they look set to stick around forever! 


  1. Meditation (as it is known to boost the immune system)… and being married to Alice, which has brought calm and wellbeing to your soul!! xx

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回来普纳的经历 Returning to Pune

It has been almost three years since I last set foot in this buzzing second tier city of Pune. It was here that Anthony and I decided to settle, and stay, back in 2008 after we left university. Back then, we knew no one here and little about life, business or India. In two years we had started two companies, one of which now employs more than fifty people, SapnaSolutions. Now, after more than two months on the road, from lowland to highland and down again, across the himalayas, from China to India, we return to where it all started for me in Asia, Pune.

Eight regional jets are parked at Pune airport when we arrive, a far cry from the one or two daily flights in my time here. It is our first reminder that this town of 5 million is one of the fastest developing in India. A quick auto ride past familiar sites and we arrive at Koregoan Park, the trendy area Anthony and I never managed to find the budget to live in back in 2008. We are touched by the warmth of Yann and Anna’s reception and hospitality, and though it has been a number of years since we all saw each other last, a common bond exists, one only fellow entrepreneurs who’ve worked through difficult times together share. As we settle into our air conditioned room, I dream of times past. I had never before slept with AC in Pune.

20120620-140357.jpgSapnaSolutions has grown. When I left we had a maximum of twenty staff. Two office moves later I stand humbled at the entrance of their huge new office, housing over fifty eager employees, including many from Europe, both interning and full time. Three or four employees whom I helped hire remain firm, after three years of startup madness. Big smiles and warm handshakes with characteristicly Indian enthusiasm – it is good to be back.

20120620-140202.jpgThe familiar sound of a rickshaws noisy two stroke engine firing into life, and I’m off across town to see Shardul, an old friend and one of our first employees way back in 2008. Familiar sites and smells whizz past, evoking old memories and powerful emotions, but both Pune and I have changed. Shiny new buildings are everywhere, particularly noticeable is the flurry of high end hotels which have appeared all over the city. No longer is Le Meridian the only place for a good breakfast. Change in more subtle form can be found in old streets fast turning upmarket, cool. Where once there were run down stores and dark shuttered windows, trendy cafes and shops have appeared, businesses that used to be limited to small pockets of the city, now unleashed across countless upchanging neighbourhoods. My rickshaw driver suddenly turns to me at a junction as I am using my phone to capture the scene. ‘How much, your phone? 20,000?’
‘No’, I reply, embarrassed to tell him the truth is closer to double that. He continues:
‘Camera is how many megapixels?’
Stunned by the questionI tell him the truth, ‘Eight’.
‘Very good’, he waggles his head in approval, pulling away from the light with the rush of traffic. Such an exchange would have been unimaginable, certainly in English, just a few years back.
Even the traffic too has changed. Yann tells me an explosion in car purchases by middle class families in the past two years has replaced many of the cities infamous hordes of bikes. While quieter and arguably less polluting, the city continues to suffer ever worse congestion. Nevertheless, even the municipality has had its share of the change, with noticably more efficient road systems. Everything it seems, from my cofounders lifestyle, to the rickshaw drivers English and ambition, has had an upgrade.

20120620-140535.jpgSharduls company Webonize, is perhaps the most impressive and overwhelming of the expansions I witness here. Three years after founding his small offshore development company, his staff count stands at 70+, with office space to match. Standing in front of their massive backup power supply, he explains his full time occupation of late is sourcing and fitting offices. That, and continuing to close individual deals worth upwards of several hundreds of thousands of dollars with US and European clients. Lead around the office like an investor or advisor, rather than the lowly third party friend of the founder that I am, I ask how long they expect to be in the office in which they have just invested heavily and moved into. ‘At least another two quarters’, he explains, laughing. Shardul is a gem, shining more every time I see him. Full of humour and joviality, he talks through some of the challenges he’s faced, personal and entrepreneurial, as though telling a stories round a campfire of times past. His unshakable optimism and neverending energy will take him far, that much is clear to me, as we drive back to the west side of town in his new car, reminiscing about times not so long past.

And as we round off a short two day visit with more of Anna’s kind hospitality and spectacular Italian cooking at a small gathering at home, I am suddenly struck with a familiar feeling that I’ve had here before. It was April 9th 2009 and SapnaSolutions had just had her official office launch party. A group of about twenty staff and friends were sat in a crescent shape drinking and chatting afterwards. I looked around and suddenly felt that part of what Anthony and I had done since arriving in India was to help create a family. People would come and go, and not everyone present were even our employees, but through times shared acquaintance had turned to strong connection; a lasting bond now existed between all.

Now, three years on, it is quite amazing to see what has happened to that family. It has grown to proportions quite beyond our expectations. People we once hired and close friends we made now account for four or five new companies in Pune, employeeing hundreds of people, generating millions of dollars in revenue. Our vision of EnTrip didn’t quite take off as we hoped. But something perhaps even more amazing happened. We helped start a family, and participate as it grew. I can’t claim much was down to me, and in any case, noone single handedly starts a family, one participates in one. For that alone, to have been a small part in this story, I am very very happy. To be reminded of that, to feel part of it again, even just for a few days, thanks to the warmth of friends made here in India many years ago, is worth more than seeing Mount Everest or any number of picture perfect places. What you all have, whether you know it or not, is very special.

Thanks again!


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A journey in Beijing: Small collection of photos taken with my new Nikon 16-85mm on a long taxi ride through central Beijing last week.

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[Hack] How to reduce your iPhone Map data usage by up to 75% and save maps for offline use

Lets face it, iOS Maps uses up too much of your data package. If you don’t believe me, try this:

  • Check your data usage in Settings -> Usage -> Cellular Usage
  • Reset it, or take a note of the value
  • Go to Maps, and search for a city youve never viewed before in map
  • Zoom in a few times, and pan around for 30 seconds
  • Check your data usage again
  • That’s right, 2-3 MB for that small privilege!

The problem isnt just the amount of data itself, but the fact that it gets deleted soon after you download it! Why? The maps app on the iPhone has a very small, ~22MB cache. So even if you use your home WiFi to pre-download all you need for your week away to Paris, it’s likely you can only access a tiny bit of your previously viewed maps before you need to download again. And for that you need cell access, to drain more data from your monthly allowance (or force you to sell your house to pay for roaming fees), and patience.

The Solution

1. First you need to jailbreak. Luckily this is possible on all devices, including the iPhone 4S (at time of writing).

2. Now there are a number of existing solutions you can try. However, I found (at time of writing), some are difficult to understand, and none of them work with Google Maps or iOS5. In case this changes, and because it’s likely my solution will one day fail, I’ll list some of them here:

We are going to modify the cache database to stop it deleting old map tiles, thereby allowing it to increase in size indefinitely. Don’t worry, its not as hard as it sounds.

  1. Find and Copy the /var/mobile/Library/Caches/Maps/MapTiles/MapTiles.sqlitedb file to your Mac / PC (you can do this using a file copying program such as iExplorer [], or using ssh).
  2. Open it with an SqlLite database reader. I used MesaSQLite [] for Mac.
  3. Add the following trigger to the database by executing the following query:- “CREATE TRIGGER prevent_delete BEFORE DELETE ON image  BEGIN SELECT raise(IGNORE); END”
  4. Quit Maps on your iPhone
  5. Copy the MapTiles.sqlitedb back to the same location on your phone, replacing the original
  6. Ensure the file has the correct permissions, owner: mobile, 775. You can use terminal, ssh, or even iFile (an app available in Cydia) to do this.
  7. Restart your iPhone.

Now try it out! It’s best if your on a wifi network, but 3G will do. Pan and zoom around the map all you like, and after a few minutes check the size of the MapTiles.sqlitedb file. It should grow beyond 22Mb, and when you go back to previously visited places, it will load instantly, and without need for network.


  • You may have to be connected to the internet for a second or two when you first load the maps app after a phone restart in order for them to work offline. After that you should be able to close and open it and view all tiles without being online and not using any data.
  • GPS does NOT appear to work at all without a network connection in the Maps app or any apps that use Google Maps API in iOS, even if you have perfect line of sight to the sky and the area you’re in is definitely cached. I have no idea why this is. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
  • Your maps will eventually become outdated if you live in a fast changing country like China. You may want to delete the cache file at this point and repeat the process above to make sure it’s not limited to 22MB
  • Your Maps may eventually have problems, after all this is a hack, though mine hasn’t yet with my cache file at 150mb.
  • If your very geeky like me, you can discover the location of the MapTiles database for all the applications other than the official Map app, that use the maps api. One of my favourite such apps is called cartographer. By creating a symbolic link from your modified MapTiles database to the common location for the other apps, you can use the same cache for all your maps related apps!
  • One day the tool iMapsManager [] will hopefully be updated to allow you to create maps using the google map downloaded toll and load them onto your iPhone.
  1. Hi,
    Was excited to use your tutorial today to get my maps working offline.

    the path /private/var/Library/Caches/Maps/MapTiles/MapTiles.sqlitedb does not exist on my iphone (iPhone 4, iOS v5.0.1)

    Do you know the proper location of the MapTiles.sqlitedb file for iOS 5.0.1


  2. Does not seem to work here. File maxes out at 22MB despite change. Ipod Touch 4thG 5.0.1. :(

  3. Hey Nick,

    Did it maybe take a ton of looking around in the Maps App to suddenly see the MapTiles.sqlitedb change in size? Also, is this tweak still hitching you up and working well?

    I used to *LOVE* MapsEnhancer, but ever since broke with the switch to iOS5 I’ve been looking for a replacement.

    Thanks for the post saying this stuff! :-)

    • Phil,

      If your cache is already at around 20MB, which it should be, and you have a high res iphone 4, it should take no time at all. I racked up another 14MB of Map data (taking me to 34MB database) in just a few minutes.

      I’ve had no issues with this hack, except when my maps grew beyond 800mb it would start crashing. Since I’ve finished travelling and am in a new country now, I’ve reset it and started again. Still very useful!

      • DOH! I’m an idiot. Even though I read over the part about using the correct directory, I guess I was too eager to try it. :-)

        Works for me!!!!

        When things started crashing, is it safe to just remover the MapTiles.sqlitedb cache file and fire Maps up again?

        Have some fun/safe travels!


  4. thanks for the tip to change the SQL db! That is great. I wonder if someone could make a CYDIA tweak to make a GUI for this. It is super helpful as it is, but it would also super helpful to make it easy to reset the cache if needed – - just so it doesn’t grow out of control or so you don’t have year old maps on your phone which don’t get updated.

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最近北京的空气 - Isn’t it amazing how much the environment can affect our mood?

Below are two images taken in Central Beijing in Mid October 2011. The first was taken this morning at 7:15AM local time. The second, yesterday at mid day (12:20PM) local time.

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Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by the late Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

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Fear and opportunity – the rise of consumer dominated IT

This years VMworld conference, notably now one of the biggest and most important events in the IT world, was dominated by one theme: Consumerization. Not even having yet found a place in the Engish dictionary, you’d be forgiven for wondering what the word means. No, it’s doesn’t mean people doing more shopping, in fact it’s specific to the IT world and describes the trend of technologies to spread from the consumer IT market to enterprise (e.g. Mobile Apps), rather than the traditional path which is the other way around (e.g. the PC). Do you use your personal mobile phone to check work emails or write work related notes? Do you bring your personal mac, PC or iPad to work? Do you use MSN messenger, professional social networks, or document syncing services for work? Do you find your personal software and favourite websites easier to use and more functional than the ones your business offers? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you represent the fast growing number of employees who are changing the way corporate IT managers are looking at the world. We are moving into an era where consumer technologies are penetrating all aspects of our lives, particularly the workplace.


The interest from enterprise vendors in this trend is clear; VMware CEO Paul Maritz’s and CTO Steve Herrod lead this year’s VMworld conference with mobile and application focussed keynotes, despite VMware having its technology roots firmly planted in IT infrastructure and server virtualization. They launched their new ‘Project Octopus’, a system that allows users to sync and store documents in a secure environment, similar to Apple’s recently announced iCloud, and T-Cloud’s SecureSync but focussed on enterprise. Some say it will be difficult to pull users data away from this consumer dominated space, with their data already spread around services like Dropbox, Google Apps, and soon iCloud. Others believe enterprises need to lock down their data and create virtual ‘silos’ which span servers, PCs, tablets, and mobile devices and keep corporate data safe and protected from the increased risk of theft or hacking. Whatever the success of VMware and other enterprise vendors in ‘enterprise-ifying’ these popular apps, one thing is for sure, today the growth of data and success of enterprise IT depends dramatically less on a corporate top down approach and more on consumer expectations and habits.

The Man in the Middle


Regardless of how major  IT vendors respond to this trend, I believe it is the CIO and IT managers response that is most crucial. IT managers play an increasingly difficult role of ‘man in the middle’, stuck between a mix of employee demands, software and devices such as iPads and iPhones; and the growing risk of data security, theft, and disaster recovery. IT managers have to balance the potential benefits of consumerization, with the associated risks. And this is not a future trend, it is happening now. According to Unisys’s recent study of 2,820 information worker respondents from ten different countries, over 95% of devices purchased by consumers are also used in a work environment. However, in the same study it was found that 70% of IT managers and employers wanted to standardised devices for their employees. This shows a mismatch between the reality of consumerization in the enterprise, and the IT managers expectations of their system. However, if employers can meet the reality of employee use of personal devices in the workplace head on, rather than just play ‘catch up’ with consumer trends and preference, there is a great opportunity to improve employee satisfaction, productivity, and even lower IT budgets.

And the issue is not just with devices. Many employees use their preferred platforms, applications, and even SaaS as tools in their workplace. I am one of those; a Mac user using Mac apps and SaaS document collaboration tools to aid my work. What does this mean to data security? Enterprise standards & compliance? Scalability? For years enterprise IT and IT departments have failed to keep pace with the rapidly expanding base of easily available and extremely useful tools available to any consumer at the press of a button or swipe of a credit card. This should be a wake up call to managers who want to return IT to it’s once glorious purpose of  aiding enterprise productivity, rather than holding back employees and reducing efficiency with legacy software and rules built for the ‘top down’ era of enterprise IT. It’s time for some radical rethinking of software. Luckily, it’s already begun.

Cloud to the rescue?


Enter Cloud. Cloud, or I should say SaaS, is helping bring enterprises back on track, in line with staff expectations of design and interface gained from social networks, games, and smartphones. Services like Google Docs and Baihui allow employees to collaborate, share data, and work from anywhere, in ways that are not possible with conventional IT software. New enterprise software like Project Octopus and SecureSync will allow enterprises to regain control of the data while offering cloud – like sync services to their employees, keeping data safe but allowing convenient access from anywhere. VDI (Virtual Deskop Infrastructure) allows users access to their desktop environment not only from inside the office but securely from outside and from any device, without file transfers or security holes. But even these technologies may not be enough to shift the momentum of users away from their flashy iPad applications and social networks like QQ and Dropbox, which offer similar services. As well as utilising public and private cloud solutions, IT managers need to find clever ways of allowing access to popular services while maintaining security and educating their employees about the risks of data security.

From fear to leadership


With the rate of development in mobile devices, applications, and the consumer cloud, the average employee can now derive more value from personal IT purchases than from their company’s IT department. However, as well as empowering the employee to become more efficient, these consumer technologies in the workplace can represent significant risk to the IT manager. It’s no surprise then, that the obvious reaction to this trend of consumerization is one of fear. However, I believe through a combination of communication with employees, Cloud solutions, and careful policy-making, IT departments can turn this wave of consumer technology into a major strategic advantage for their whole company.


The first challenge is to recognise the trend, gather data internally about what devices and software staff are using, and carefully open access to useful tools and services. Next, the IT manager can provide a suite of matching tools and software such as SaaS applications which reduce risk and increase employee flexibility. Finally, it is up to the IT manager to help employees understand how to best utilise their personal devices and software for work purposes, while educating them about important topics such as data security, and regular backup. A simple idea such as providing a free secure backup service for employees’ mobile devices and laptops can both help win the employee over to the value of the IT dept, and help protect important company information which might only reside on a their personal laptop from loss or theft. Gartner believes the consumerization of IT is the most significant trend affecting the IT Industry in the next ten years, even bigger than Cloud Computing. I believe these two massive trends are fundamentally linked; that IT managers now have a unique opportunity to shift their thinking from one of fear to one of leadership, and to help their organisations gain a competitive edge by empowering staff with next generation, flexible and secure IT solutions.


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