Solving puzzles

2010-05-20 16:44
Like most software developers I like tasks that involve solving more or less complex problems analytically. Most developers I know love puzzles - either those that involve dis-entangling metal rings, or those involving putting wooden pieces back into order, or even solving Rubik's cube:


Working on the schedule for Berlin Buzzwords, I noticed that coming up with a good schedule actually has a lot more in common with solving puzzles that one is usually aware of: First of all talks on similar or related topics should not take place at the same time. Presentations should be grouped according to common topics so attendees don't have to switch room after each and every talk. In addition some speakers have a tight schedule themselves and can only be at the conference for a day.

It gets even more interesting if after having put up a draft of the initial schedule you start filling the gaps, publishing those talks that were confirmed later than others or could be accepted only after freeing a spot somewhere else.

I spent the past few day re-arranging the Berlin Buzzwords schedule a bit. I added Christophe's talk on Apache Hadoop from an industry perspective. After adding it, I had 45min left in the NoSQL track - on the other hand there was a speaker from the Lucene community that we very much liked to have in. So off I went, sorting and shifting around until finally the Lucene talk ended up in the Lucene track and a Hadoop talk that was formerly there ended up in the Apache Hadoop track, resulting in one NoSQL talk from the Apache Hadoop track moving over to the NoSQL track...

To cut a long story short: The schedule is final now - unless changes need to be made last minute.

Tierpark Berlin

2010-05-19 19:36
I love taking fotos, like being outdoors and like animals. Living in a large city, it is not exactly easy to get in touch with donkeys or sheep. A very simple way to combine all three preferences here is to visit Tierpark Berlin. Being larger than your average zoo, most bawns are rather roomy with lots space outside and inside.

Little more than one year ago I received a great birthday present from Thilo: It is possible to purchase a one year ticket for that park. Since we've been there pretty often. In spring when most animal babies are born, in summer to escape heat in town, in winter when all paths are white of snow.

One attraction we usually do not want to miss are the pelicans (Thanks to p_h_o_t_o_m_i_c who took the picture below):

If you are wondering "What's that thing hanging 'round her neck?" Whenever I have some spare time left, I usually take my camera with me. It's not particularly new, not even a digital one. My parents already used it during vacation before I was born. It's a Praktika Nova 1 - capable of taking breathtakingly beautiful images:

There's just one catch: The camera is not self focussing, nor does it come with an internal exposure meter. Instead the one I have is to be used separately before taking the picture.

However even after reading just a tiny little bit about f-numbers, exposure times initial pictures I took four years ago were astonishingly beautiful. Since I regularly tend to go out just for taking pictures.

Getting a Ubuntu Laptop setup for my Mum

2010-05-17 19:15
With DSL contracts getting ever cheaper in recent years in Germany – even outside larger cities – my mom decided to get a faster internet connection (compared to the former 56k modem) including a telephone landline flatrate.

As sitting in the garden while surfing the internet is way cooler than only having a dedicated computer in an office we decided to get a notebook while at it. As both Thilo and myself are very familiar with Linux, the plan was to get a Linux-compatible netbook, install Ubuntu on it, get wireless up and running, pre-configure the necessary applications and hand it over after a short usage introduction.

Well – first idea: Mom is living close to Chemnitz, so we drove to the Media Markt in Chemnitz Center. They had a nice, not too small and not too large Acer netbook. Only question that was open: Does that thing perform well with Linux? Easily solved: We had a bootable USB stick with the latest Ubuntu version with us. We asked one of the shop assistants for permission to boot Linux from the netbook – telling him that we wanted to buy the notebook, only making sure everything works fine. Answer: “No, sorry, that is not possible. There could be a virus on that stick.” Knowing from my favourite Mac shop in Berlin that there are hardware suppliers that allow testing their products, we went out of Media Markt – disappointed, but with the plan to repeat the experiment at various other suppliers in Berlin.

Monday afternoon the following week Thilo went to a MediMax in Berlin. Experience was way different: The assistant was most helpful, offering various machines to try out – unfortunately none of them had an Intel graphics card – that is, none could be run with a free graphics driver.

End of the same week we went to Media Markt in Steglitz: Asking the assistant there for permission to boot linux from our USB stick actually made him happy. As the machine not only matched our target specifications but was even cheaper than the one in Chemnitz and did work well with Ubuntu we finally bought the notebook (Acer Timeline 3810T). Yeah: Finally not only a working machine (with 8 hours of battery time) but also a shop that cares about its custormers.

For two weeks now mom is now happy user of the Ubuntu netbook edition – step by step learning how to write e-mails, chat and use the internet. As usual first thing we tried out was searching for vacation destinations, but also for at least my name. The latter searches seemed to be most interesting – at least at Google, YouTube, flickr ... ;)

Definition of a Blogger

2010-03-12 19:17
While at lunch yesterday the topic of what Bloggers do, how they earn money and most important of all - what the hack a blogger really is - came up. Well, some criteria those who went to a restaurant nearby came up with the following criteria:

  • Blog is read by more than 5 people. (Well, in my opinion a very low barrier, really.)
  • Bloggers tend to get invited to give talks at conferences. (Yeah, well, not only people with blogs get those invitations?)
  • Over time bloggers tend to get contracts, do consultancy and the like to earn money. (Hmm, yeah, blogs do help to get visibility...)
  • Bloggers tend to be involved with traditional media people. (Phew - finally something that disqualifies myself as a blogger. Though, come to think of it - no having published one or two articles does not count. Period.)
  • They are those people you tend to see in cafes with Mac books surfing the web. (Oh, well, who hasn't done that once in a while?)

Judging from that very unscientific case-study even though taking into account the very informal nature, the result still appeared to be very scary to me: I had fought the temptation of actually creating a blog for years until publishing content for the Hadoop Get Together the very old-fashioned way (vim + scp) became too much of a burden. Now I have to realise that against my own judgement that I do tend to use this blog not exactly particularly seldom. Still trying to avoid to become one of these funny new media types and remain a typical free software developer :)

Preliminary schedule online for ignite Berlin

2010-02-23 19:13
Today first talks scheduled for ignite Berlin were published. If you yourself would like to give a talk: Submission seems to still be open.

FOSDEM - video recordings online

2010-02-14 20:32
As published in the FOSDEM blog the video recordings are available online - at least for the main track and the lightning talks. Happy video watching!

FSFE Happy Valentine

2010-02-14 07:05
Today I got woken up with a friendly hug and roses waiting for me:

I do not really care about presents for sort-of-artificial celebration days like valentines day. However, FSFE had a very nice idea: The proposal was to use valentines day to show your love for free software. The website proposed to e.g. hug a free software developer, to make a gift to a team of free software developers:

I love Free Software!

Happy Valentine!

FOSDEM 2010 - part 3

2010-02-10 21:02
Sunday started in Janson with Andrian Bowyer's talk on RepRap machines, that is devices that can be used as manufacturing devices and are able to replicate themselves. After that I went over to the Mono dev room to listen to Miguel de Icaza on Mono Edge. A great talk on the history of Mono, the way the community interacts with Microsoft, the C# language itself and special features only available in Mono.

After this talk we went over to Janson for Andrew Tanenbaum's talk on Minix. We knew quite a bit of the talk already from Froscon two years ago, however Andrew is an awesome speaker, so it's always fun to catch up on the news on Minix.

The scalability talk started with an introduction to Hadoop by myself and continued with a talk on the facebook infrastructure by David Recordon. According to feedback I got after the talk, laughing with Thilo helped quite a bit to get myself calm. Before the talk I received one very good recommendation of one of the audio guys: Imagine you are giving the talk to one of your best friends - and forget about the microphone. Though I had way more slides than minutes to talk, we had enough time for the Q&A session after the talk. I started the talk by learning more about the audience - however this time not by handing the microphone to those listening (room too large) - I just asked them "have you heard about Hadoop?" - half of the audience. Are you Hadoop users: one quarter maybe. How large are your clusters? - 10 to 100 nodes mostly. Have you heard of Zookeeper? - some, Hive - some more, Pig - a few, Lucene - a lot, Solr - a little less, Mahout - maybe 5, Mahout users: 1.

Turns out the Mahout user in the audience was Olivier: It's so nice to meet people you know are active on the mailing lists for real and have a chat with them. Hope to see you more often on the lists - and meet you face to face again.

I used the chance to announce the Berlin Buzzwords 2010, a two day event on search and scalability buzzwords like cloud computing, Hadoop, Lucene, NoSQL and more. It takes place on June 7th and 8th in the center of Berlin. Follow this blog for further information. Judging from the input I got after the announcement there is quite some need for such a conference in Europe.

The slides of my talk are soon to be available online.

After my talk I could stay in Janson: A talk on the Facebook infrastructure (not only the Hadoop side of things) followed. After that I met Lars George at the NoSQL dev room - unfortunately I did not manage to actually talk to Steven Noels, who organised the room.

The afternoon was reserved for Greg Kroah-Hartman on how to "Write and submit your first Linux Kernel Patch" - my personal conclusion: git is really awesome. I really, really need to find a few spare minutes to learn how to effectively use it.

In the evening we met with Pieter Hintjens for dinner - and to finalize an awesome weekend in Brussels and a great 10th anniversary FOSDEM. A huge Thank You to all volunteers and organisers of FOSDEM - you did a great job this year putting together an awesome schedule, you did a fantastic job making the now pretty huge event (with 306 talks and about 5000 hackers attending) run smoothly. Even the wireless was working from minute one. See you again at FOSDEM 2011.

FOSDEM 2010 - part 2

2010-02-09 21:00
The event itself featured 306 talks - so pretty hard to choose what to watch on two days. This time, not only the main tracks were awesome, but also several dev rooms featured very interesting talks by well known FOSS developers.

Saturday started with a FOSDEM birthday dance done by all attendees. The first keynote speaker Brooks Davis explained his experiences promoting open source methods at a large company. After that Richard Clayton gave an amazing talk on the evil on the internet. He explained not only how phishing works on a technical level but also included an explanation of the economics behind these attacks, explained how the money flow from victims to attackers works.

On the afternoon Bernard Li gave an introduction to the cluster monitoring tool Ganglia. Directly after that Lindsay Holmwood gave an overview of the monitoring and notification tools flapjack and cucumber-nagios.

The evening was filled with the speakers dinner. Thanks for the organisers for providing that. We had a really nice evening together with some of the organisers, Andrew Tanenbaum and Elena Reshetova at our table.

FOSDEM visitor seems to like my baby

2010-02-09 08:19
Posted using

Another picture that was taken before the first session early in the morning: