Monday, September 15, 2008

Into The Wild - Review

On Saturday evening I finally managed to see Into The Wild which has been sitting on top of my "to-be-watched"-list for quite some time. I originally wanted to see it at the beginning of the year when it hit the Austrian cinemas but due to all the madness back then I didn't manage to go. Now it's been sitting around waiting for me to watch it for the better part of the past 6 months...

Anyway, I have to say this is probably one of the most beautiful motion pictures (yes, I'm actually using that expression!) I've seen in quite some time. Some of the images are simply stunning, the soundtrack is a class of its own, the acting is top-notch and the story, well, it's so captivating that you know only life itself could have written it. Which, since it is based on a true story, it did.

The journey of Christopher McCandless is definitely something that many people dream about at least once in their life. To really get away from it all, to be on the road, meeting new people, free from the rules and limitations imposed upon us by regular life, living by your own schedule and desires, etc. I guess it's not hard to see that yours truly thinks (or rather dreams?) about doing something similar every now and then himself...

I really can't say much more about this movie except that it is an inspiring piece, definitely well recommended!

Gomorra - Review

As mentioned before I saw the movie Gomorra tonight and while I liked it quite a lot I still left the cinema somewhat underwhelmed. I initially couldn't pinpoint exactly why but for some reason I had expected more.

Maybe because the book by Roberto Saviano that the movie is based on was hyped  a bit in the recent past. Also I had read a very interesting articles about Naples and the influence of the Camorra on life there in the excellent German magazine Geo the other week. So in terms of the actual situation nothing was really new to me even though the portrayal of the various characters influenced by the Camorra and their urban-slum environment was really well done.

But then I found the perfect comment about this movie and this one sentence really manages to hit the nail on the head:

With everything into consideration, film is too well choreographed that it becomes as intimidating as the organization that it exposes.

I really got nothing to add to that!

"Waltz with Bashir" trailer

Just got home from the cinema where I saw Gomorra (more on that movie in an upcoming post) but before the film started I saw the amazing Waltz with Bashir trailer. I've embedded it below:

I'll definitely have to see that one once it hits the cinemas in mid-November...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seeking a routine

On my way to work today I thought about how much routine I've had in my life for the majority of the past 6 months. In fact I haven't had such a regular routine since I finished my year of compulsory social service back in 2004. The reason why I'm emphasizing regular here is simple: I might call drinking beer and hanging out with friends in front of our student residence (spring 2005 was awesome!) or working until dawn and subsequently sleeping until 11:30 a.m. a routine but I fear the majority of society would disagree with me there. Not that it's been that bad in the past 2 1/2 years. However I still rather seldomely managed to go to bed before 3 a.m. and in my eternal quest to approximate my sleep to 6 hours / night I often don't get up until 10 a.m. or so.

But in the past half year I've pretty much followed the routine of a 9-to-5 office worker and always had to get up by 7 a.m. Now I can tell you that when getting up at that time I'm hardly more than a vegetable for the majority of the morning. However it's still quite good to have a regular routine and it feels great to go to lunch having been at least somewhat productive already.

So now the goal is to find a reasonable compromise which gets me through the upcoming university semester starting at the beginning of October. My current thinking is to try and get up around 8:30 which sounds more or less doable. With the goal of ideally sleeping 6 hours and knowing that I cope quite well with 4 1/2 hours of sleep that gives me enough time in the evenings and nights to get things done. With my old routine I consistently seemed to be most productive in the late afternoons and between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. If I could add 2~3 hours of actual and productive work in the mornings then I'd be very happy indeed.

Of course there's always a (big?) difference between theory and practice but I certainly hope to achieve my goals. I just set myself a reminder on my mobile phone to re-visit this topic 2 months down the road, it will be interesting to see where how things go until then.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dobri projekti: One laptop per child

Earlier today I got word that Slovenian Studio 12 had posted a video about One Laptop per Child on their Web site. The great 20-min video also contains some comments by yours truly recorded when I was in Ljubljana for the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly back in March. Also included: extensive explanations by the one any only Bernie Innocenti with whom I had the pleasure of hanging out over the weekend. It was also nice to see the video include many of the photos that Mike Lee took during the 1st ever DC photo jam back in June.

Having just watched the video made me (again!) realize how quickly the 5 1/2 months since then have gone by and how much has happened in the meantime. It's really been an excellent year for me and I'm looking forward to the remaining third of it, especially since come next Tuesday I'll be back in Vienna, for good.

P.S. Yes, I deserve to be beaten for that stupid iPhone power-consumption comparison, I don't know from where I got and why I swallowed that oh-so-wrong information. But hey, it's not like I made that comparison about x-hundred times when I was at CeBIT, right? ;-)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

FUDCon Brno 2008

I'm sitting here in the car on the way home from the Fedora User and Developer Conference (FUDCon for short) in Brno, Czech Republic. Daniel from OLPC Austria and me attended the event from Friday until today and I have to say it was well worth the 2x 5 hours ride to/from Brno.

The main reason for going to FUDCon was to meet up with the core Sugar developers (Sugar being the software platform originally developed for One Laptop per Child) and have a OLPC / Sugar / Sugar Labs (the latter being the new non-profit organization created to improve and spread the Sugar platform) presence at the event.

We arrived quite late on Friday evening but we did make it in time for some great Czech food and beer at a small restaurant near the Faculty of Informatics at Masaryk University where the event was held. We didn't waste any time and quickly moved into a very good discussion on the recent past and current status of OLPC, Sugar and Sugar Labs. Apart from recounting the madness that was the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Session in Ljubljana back in March we also generated a couple of good ideas for things to be improved or done in the foreseeable future. While we initially had the intention to call it a day when the waitress closed the restaurant some of us decided to take a peek at nightlife in Brno. We ended up in this somewhat generic disco/pub/bar but the beer and discussions were good and it was nice way to chill out after what had been quite a long day for me.

Sugar Labs gang

Saturday's program was dedicated to a BarCamp where we hosted a 50min session in the morning. I started off with a 15~20 min presentation on the "who, what and why of Sugar" which was basically a broad overview of some key features in Sugar, the core challenges that the project is facing, some thoughts on education and the current state of things with regard to OLPC and Sugar. The second part of the session was held by the Sugar developer team and focused on the more technical aspects of the project and especially areas where the Fedora community can contribute. At the end we had quite an engaging Q&A session with the majority of the comments and discussions centered around storing and retrieving data. Instead of the traditional files and folders system Sugar (on the surface) employs something called the Journal which basically acts as a diary (with support for searching, tagging and filtering) of everything you do on your machine. It was interesting to hear people's thoughts on this approach and I think we're definitely going to have many more discussions on this topic in the weeks and months ahead.

The afternoon was spent sweating away in a very steamy lecture-room where we first we heard a presentation about what seems to be quite a cool translation platform called Transifex. Later we turned our attention on getting some work and, in my case, mostly e-mailing done. The evening was dedicated to the FUDCon social event which meant mediocre food, great beer and outstanding discussions all while surrounded by people wearing white FUDCon Brno 2008 t-shirts. We really got an awful lot of work done both before and after dinner and thanks to having an XO at hand we could record all of our thoughts, strategies and ideas which we would have undoubtedly forgotten otherwise. We then went for a nice walk towards the city center which was followed by the long walk home since our hotel was a couple of kilometers away from Brno's center. We almost lost our two Italian developers along the way because while they might be able to code for 3 days straight walking for a bit apparently kills their spirit or something.

getting things done

Since everyone had gotten a good night's sleep (7h, I hadn't come close to that during the rest of the week) we were all quite relaxed and energetic today. While the Sugar team got together for a discussion of the roadmap and feature-set for the Sugar 0.84 release I toyed around with the RoadMap activity, caught up with most of my e-mails and sketched out some ideas and to-dos for the weeks ahead. In the late afternoon we had a good discussion were we wrapped-up many of the thoughts that we had collected on the day before.

All in all a very productive and enjoyable weekend and while it's going to be a while I'm already looking forward to the next meeting with these fine folks. As always with OLPC-related experiences it's a great pleasure to be able to spend your time with people who are that smart and inspiring.

Some random observations:

  • I assume almost 2/3 of all the laptops I saw at FUDCon were Lenovo ThinkPads. There were also a number of eee PC owners at the event and in general there's definitely a strong trend towards machines which are smaller than 15.4".
  • The organization at FUDCon was nothing short of stellar and kudos to Red Hat and everyone who was involved in the process. That's exactly what a community event should be like and I know of many organizations which could learn a thing or two from Red Hat / Fedora in that respect!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Talk about wasting time

Damn, I hate it when I waste time. Especially when I waste time I really should have spent doing something else as I'm running out of time anyway.

Why this rant? Well, I just spent the past 4 hours preparing (or rather trying to prepare) my OLPC XO for FUDCon Brno 2008 where I'm heading tomorrow to meet up some of the OLPC / SugarLabs folks. As part of the ongoing efforts of closer collaborations between the OLPC / Sugar and Fedora community I wanted to setup an SD card with Fedora 9 as explained by the fabolous dsd from OLPC. Additionally I wanted to prepare another SD card with Xubuntu to showcase that other, non-Fedora operating systems, can also run well on the XO.

Now, two evenings into this project I'm literally close to tears. I've made every possible mistake and run into every imaginable issue along the way and have gotten nowhere. Network issues, corrupted downloads, not realizing that my card-readers aren't SDHC compatible,... you name it, I've seen it all.

So I've finally decided to let it go and spend the rest of the evening on something useful (e.g. finishing my possible presentation at FUDCon on Saturday) before grabbing some badly needed sleep. Tomorrow shall be a better day, and if it ain't then at least I'll be able to distract myself from my sorrows with good Czech beer, Czech food and great company! :-)


Look Ma, even my XO hates me!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Social Ice Cream Media

I'm still not sure whether I just saw a video about ice cream (/me wants some) or social media... Regardless, I'd certainly suggest you watch this video, it's very well done!


My favourite place

I can't even begin to tell you how much I missed being at what's probably my favourite place in the world: the MuseumsQuartier Wien. If I had the time I'd could easily spend a whole day there and wouldn't be bored for a second. Just watching the people is enough to keep you busy for the day. But of course you can also go there to hang out, read, sleep, learn (don't laugh!), meet people, enjoy food and drinks at places such as the Kantine, listen to the music by live Djs on weekends and try to beat the record at the Carrera toy racing-tracks.

All of these activities are made all that much more confortable by what's undoubtably the single coolest piece of outdoor furniture ever invented: the Enzis (see the red things on the photo below, that's it). Since I found out that you can buy them in three different sizes it's bee a secret dream of mine to at some point live in a place where I can put an Enzi in a garden or on a terrace.

view of the MQ

So if you're ever in Vienna and it's a sunny day you should definitely stop by in the MuseumsQuartier, it truly is urban life at its best!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Not too excited about Google Chrome

It's all over the news right now and apparently the official announcement will be made at a press event at Google HQ today at 11 a.m. PDT.:

Google will release a new open-source browser based on a combination of Apple WebKit and Mozilla Firefox and held together with some custom code by Google.

Looking at the currently available information and the single screenshot from CNet above I have to say it's hard to get too excited. (Admittedly the idea to (pre-)announce a browser via a comic book is pretty sweet!)

Unless Chrome uses signficantly less memory and/or renders pages and all those Web 2.0 sites signficantly faster than Firefox I don't see too many incentives to switch. Additionally it will be hard for Chrome to compete with the plethora of Firefox extensions, unless they somehow manage to maintain compatibility that is.

Now something that I’d be excited about is a project to crossbreed Thunderbird and Gmail. Both approaches offer some pretty damn cool features but combined they could really give all other e-mail solutions (even the Outlook / Exchange combination) a run for its money.