Redesign, Schmedesign

If you have read my blog before, you may have noticed I have completely overhauled and stripped down the design of this page. I am not 100% happy with it but the branch was lying around for so long that I finally pulled myself together, fixed the worst stuff and just hit the button.

There are a few things still missing but this should be good enough for now.

And yes, this is the third post with this headline. The first one is from 2011 and the second one is from 2014.

Bluesky and Mastodon, a braindump

In my last article about Mastodon (and Twitter), I was very hopeful for the future, because I felt like we’ve been moving into the right direction. The fediverse felt (and still largely feels) like a very internet approach to social media. Decentralised, federated, very Email like and with a strong incentive to embrace that decentralised nature.

I am a little less hopeful today, but my thinking is still very much in flux.

So let’s talk Bluesky for a second. It seems like most of its promises of interoperability are largely unsubstantiated at this point. People have been mostly raving about its superiour (over Mastodon) onboarding process (which is much easier if you don’t have to take federation into account) and the cool vibes (which seems to be largely credited to a very deliberate slow onboarding and vetting process. Again, much easier if you’re in full control).

Twitter and Mastodon, a braindump

An ongoing critique of Twitter peope about people on Mastodon is that on Mastodon, one only talks about Mastodon. Totally predictably, throughout the last few days, this increasingly was the case and is probably normal for a period of heavy growth. To be fair, with recent events even Twitter became much more self aware and meta.

The End of an Era?

So Twitter is now officially the playball of a billionaire with a history of questionable business practices, a strong anti union stance and a self proclaimed free-speech-absolutionism.

Sounds like a plan. Not necessarily a good one, but a plan.

One of the fundamental questions

As I write this, almost every single country on this planet is dealing with some sort of “environmental” disaster. Floods and wildfires, both “fueled” by weather patterns pushed to the extreme by, let’s just get this out of the way, human made climate change. The extremes of 2021 may be a very seldom outlier on the historic scales of humankind, but if you have read the IPCC report carefully, we can almost guarantee it won’t be an outlier for very long and the extremes of this year will feel muted to us in the not so far distant future.

Well, let’s talk about something different, something more fun, shall we?

The corona virus is a global pandemic that has caused, so far, around 4 million deaths (that we know of) globally. It has disrupted our lives in a way only very few events can, and I would go as far to say that it probably has affected more humans (absolutely) than any other previous event. Okay, that’s easy. In 1918, we had probably around 1,6 Billion people - We’re now close to 8 Billion.

So, what do these events, apart from the horror and pain they stack on top of each other, have in common?

Fort Europa

The European Union is a fascinating construct. It has brought long standing peace to a region that never had more than a few decades of that at a time. It has brought together former enemies and has produced a young generation of Europeans with a complete disregard for borders and language barriers. I love this part with all of my heart.

From very early on, though, Europe, as much as it was about togetherness for those who are on the inside, it was also about the otherness of those outside. Frontex, founded in 2004, is the latest bureaucratic manifestation of that. In 2005, one of my favourite rap groups, swedish “Loop Troop” (they later renamed themselves to “Loop Troop Rockers”), published an album and a single named “Fort Europa”, a strong statement of condemning this fortification of the European continent. More and more legislation, on the other hand, ate away at the human right of taking asylum, putting more and more of the burden on the victims, making it harder and harder to enter the EU as a refugee.

The lesser of three evils

So far, I’ve only written on my various other blog-like things about my departure from the Apple eco system. Probably about time to write a “proper” blog post about it, but this is not going to be that post.

During the lest few days, I noticed that I became more and more frustrated with my current setup and this brought me back to the original reason why I liked my Apple Macs so much.

The climate has changed

I swear, I did try to write a “year in review” for 2019, but again, I was very much failing to compress a year with massive ups and downs (with a mild emphasis on downs, I think) into one cohesive blog post. So I think, what I’ll do instead is try to write several posts on the various themese that dominated 2019 and that will probably dominate 2020 as well for me.

This first post is, well, you may have guessed it from the title, about our climate crisis. 2019 was, after the foreshadowing by the super hot summer of 2018, the year where nobody could (any longer) deny the existence of a climate crisis. Now, of course, I was aware of climate change for a long time. As a studied environmental engineer and with a somewhat solid base of knowledge in natural sciences, it’s not as if I could have escaped it in any way. In fact, during all of my time at university (1996-2002) this was already an ongoing discussion. Heck, my main work experience project was a thing called “climate network” (Klimanet), a website that educated public schools on how to save energy. My diploma thesis was working on solar chargers for rural Namibia, a project meant to aide rural communities in cutting down on gas lamps and open fires.

Spring Cleaning in September

This has been sitting around for quite some time but after a very hectic spring and a loooong summer, I’m now slowly ramping up my indoor activities.

I’m planning on remodeling my living room / office for quite some time now and one of the reasons I haven’t done it yet that I have way too much “stuff” (in all forms and sizes) to gracefully move it from the living room to my bedroom and still have a livable place.

For that reason, I need to get rid of a lot of stuff. As I despise working with platforms like Ebay classifieds for stuff like this, I’m trying something different: You can find all of my stuff I want to get rid of on my new “Spring Cleaning” web page. If this works, I will add a lot more stuff to that list.

If you’re interested in something, let me know. There’s some really weird and interesting stuff in there.

I’ll also probably will start to add some books to it.

A new year, some new things

Between the years I started to work on a “year in review” post but I couldn’t finish it. There are a couple of things I simply can’t write about that were so dominant throughout the last year that if I wouldn’t have written about them it wouldn’t have felt right. And still, no, sorry. So, yeah, 2017 had it’s ups and downs like every year, but I’m afraid the ups were largely drowned out by the downs. And unfortunately (the main reason I can’t really write about it) the most important downs were personal. But, of course, the state of the world has something to do with it. And, reflecting on my own behaviour and especially my media consumption while trying to write that retrospective, I realized that I needed to change things a bit.

This thing called Depfu

Ugh, I didn’t exactly blog much here lately have I? I did blog in this other place, though, and this other place, called Depfu, is our latest try to actually build our own product.

Depfu helps teams that use Ruby and Rails to keep their dependencies up to date by creating Pull Requests on your Repos on GitHub with the updates that are coming in via It is inspired by greenkeeper, which does the same thing for JavaScrip projects using npm.

Today, Depfu is on ProductHunt. If you want to support us, me or Depfu (or ideally: All of them), you probably know what to do.

This day is an experiment, as we have temporarily borrowed some really loud loudspeakers and want to create as much buzz as possible. If we can get that done, it will probably help us a great deal in bringing Depfu forward on the path to sustainability, which is, of course, our long term goal.

The most stupid product review ever

Ten days ago, I got myself a Pebble. Yes, a Pebble. In the light of the recent announcements of the now-ex-manufacturer of the Pebble, this sounds like one of the most idiotic ideas ever, and it probably was. The thing is, it was never as cheap to get one of these. I paid less than 100 EUR for a Pebble Time. And I was genuinely interested in the ecosystem. I’m not a watch person, for the most part, otherwise I probably would have gotten one earlier. And now, I’m wearing a Pebble for 10 days and even though reviewing it seems kind of pointless right now, as it is not a product with any sort of future (apart from a few faithful hackers trying to rescue the ecosystem), I think it might actually be interesting to share my findings, especially in the light of the company’s demise.

Reverse Engineering the CRAFT synth sysex messages

This may only be of interest to some of you, but it’s something I wanted to have documented somewhere, so that’s why I made a blog post out of it.

I just got my Modal Electronics CRAFT synth, a surprisingly powerful little synthesizer that comes in a very interesting form factor.

(Update: Today, the app(s) came out and I updated some information in the gist and in this article).

What could possibly go wrong with a president Trump?

Over the last few weeks, I had random conversations with people where the US presidential elections came up. On more than one occasion, someone brought up the typical “Well, Trump is a crazy person, but the American president doesn’t have that much power anyway, so what should go wrong. And by the way, Hillary is a Hawk and that might be really bad, too” line.

By the way, this is a European perspective, but I assume it is something Americans have heard in conversations as well.

Here’s a few reasons why I think this line of thinking is extremely lazy and dangerous:

Finding a CPU Sinkhole in My App Using Chrome Tracing

On thursday night, I planned to work a little on this big ember app I’m working on for a client. For some reason, even though my app was the only tab opened, Chrome had a pretty high CPU usage. Now, I know Chrome is generally good at that, but I was intrigued. My app can use quite a bit of your CPU at times, but just sitting there, idling around, this should not happen. Opening the Chrome task manager, I determined that indeed, it was my app that was causing the load.

A few quick screencasting tips

I started to do more and more screencasts (mostly for Open Color Tools) and today I finally had the feeling that I didn’t screw up completely.

Here’s what I think I have learned so far:

Jekyll within Rails, on Heroku

There are several HOWTO’s on the web, there’s even a gem, but all of them are slightly outdated or not fitting for my use case, so here’s how I’ve integrated Jekyll into our Rails on Heroku setup for a small project.

The goal was to use Jekyll for both the marketing homepage of the product and as a blogging engine. I also wanted Heroku to do the jekyll build process on publish and thus not having to check in the artifacts aka generated websites. There are some pitfalls that I came across, so that’s another reason for documenting it here.

How I almost got run over by a car in 2003

Today, I came across a great article by Bodo, a friend from Berlin that can be best summed up with a tweet from him:

I couldn’t agree more - I myself had to learn this the hard way, though. I shared a bit of my own experience on twitter today, but I felt like this could use some more words.

When the impostor syndrome ruins your decision making

One day, I’m going to do a writeup of the technical restructuring I just did on probably one of my most important projects right now. Today is not that day, because I want to talk about the reasoning and the history of that rewrite instead, on a meta level.

I’m currently building an open source library published to npm to parse and render a file format we’ve designed for Open Color Tools. We’ve built a first prototype using a YAML parser and doing some preprocessing, but the format quickly evolved into something that was essentially incompatible with YAML, so we needed a new solution.

The Binary Toolbox (for JavaScript)

The first time I tried my luck in parsing binary files within the browser must have been the Cloudtracker2 project, my (slightly out of date) try to make a good Protracker player/Editor for the web (It sort of lives on in the Halfplayer project if you’re interested). Parsing binary files in the browser is actually no longer a problem, but I thought it might be a fun exercise to write down some notes on what I’ve come across in one of my current projects, which involves intensive binary data munging on a much bigger scale than what I have tried so far.

So, here’s the toolboxes contents:

Additionally, we’re going to talk about file drag and drop, creating object URLs and other things.

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