2018-03-02

Time travelling in early 2018

Last year, i used a similar title for a post on the blog, but on this occasion, i travelled back in time by cleaning up the living room with my parents. In late 2017, our landlord motivated us to do this, because to him it looks dangerous, having mountains of seemingly random things in a place, where normal people watch TV or play board games with friends. But we don't have much time for that, since we have to pay for rent, food, healthcare, public broadcasting, and everything else. Welcome to the bottom of this pyramid scheme.
The origin of most stuff in the living room is "life". I moved twice with my parents, and each time we kept most of our belongings, because everything is precious to us, since we are not smart, or rich. Nevertheless, we are not keeping highly combustible objects around. Back then, in 1992, we run our Restaurant in Ratingen for many years, where my father cooked in the kitchen with heavy "woks" over real fire, without anything bad happening.
But since our neighbours in Bad Godesberg might not be as thoughtful as we are, i do understand the danger of having too many things around. For example, the way they handle garbage bags or how they close apartment doors is a nightmare. And thanks to their habit to let the house door wide open, i got my MiniDisc recorder and my mountain bike stolen. This is why we now have a basically normal living room, just in case they start a campfire indoors, or some accident happens. After all, no one is perfect, except maybe Julia Roberts. By sorting through all the old stuff, i occasionally get surprised, because things are getting new perspectives to look at. It's like being in a history museum and wandering around in the past.
For example, i found a lot of "Colleen Colored Pencils" my aunts and uncle sent me from Hong Kong to Germany, over 20 years ago. I was probably anxious to use them, since they are really special to me. This is why i have several packages full of new stationeries waiting to meet a piece of paper. I already doodled a couple of "Stargates", inspired by the TV series, and uploaded them to YouTube. My mom also found my over 15 years old "Hohner Echo" harmonica again, and i made it a part of some videos.
2018-02-26

Six years Prime student member

In April 2012, i signed up for Amazon Prime Student, because officially i was still a geography student at the University of Bonn. Back then, there was no video streaming available. But the fast and "free" shipping was already worth the discounted price. Later, in early 2014, they introduced Prime video in Germany including a limited selection of movies and shows, which made me keep being subscribed to it. But in the past months, i basically stopped shopping on Amazon, because of Aliexpress. Things are taking a lot longer to deliver, but the prices are hard to beat.
Now, in February 2018, Amazon sent a Email telling me they will upgrade me to "regular" Prime without discounts, which makes it all even less compelling, since i have already seen many of the contents in their video catalog. And in Mai 2016, i discovered BitTorrent "in the cloud", which opened a door to new options, next to Prime video. It's safer than a standard setup, where you run everything local, because the BitTorrent client here is not directly installed on the computer. In December 2015, i got to try Netflix too, which i had for one month as a free trial. FYI, my first order on Amazon was in October 2006, and i bought a Sony ICD-SX56 digital voice recorder for capturing audio at university.
2018-02-10

How Leo Laporte made me feel less alone

Over six years ago, i was one of the first users of "Google Plus", back then, when it got launched in mid 2011. While i was exploring this new upcoming social network, i discovered people like Lisa Bettany and the TWiT podcast network in my Google+ stream. I got sucked in because of the live video on twit.tv, which has let me be a part of something i didn’t know existed. Thanks to Leo Laporte and his friends i felt less alone at that time. From his studio in Petaluma, he talks about tech and things relating to it. And since this is part of modern life, it really means he covers a wide range of topics.
Leo Laporte showed me that there are others out here, who are into technology as much as i am, and that we are like each other in many ways. He is basically a "Swiss Army" knife, just like me, with a wide range of interests. We know a lot about different things, interdisciplinary, to drop a fancy word. Maybe not deep enough to be perfect at anything, but good enough to see the bigger picture and understand how all parts are connected. But he can do whatever he wants, unlike me, since i don't have that many resources. Because of this, Leo Laporte inspired me to keep doing what i enjoy, put myself out there, and see where it goes, despite existential threats.
2018-01-29

My relation to the United Kingdom

Over five years ago, in 2012, i have read about the "Raspberry Pi" by Eben Upton for the first time. Back then, it was barely available, because of its low price for a "real" computer. But it was still quite expensive, if you don’t know what to do with all the potential. Last year, in July 2017, i got my hands on the "Pi Zero W", with built-in Wifi and Bluetooth, made in the UK. I have built a CCTV camera, and it turned out great. I have let it run in my room for three weeks, while i was with my mother in Hong Kong. It captured all movements, saved photos on the microSD card and uploaded them via FTP to my web server as a backup. Thanks to "motionEyeOS" by Calin Crisan, and the "Camera Module" by the Raspberry Pi Foundation: The whole thing was like putting Lego bricks together.
Now, in January 2018, i got my second Pi Zero W, installed Linux in the flavor of "Raspbian Stretch", and built the foundation for a private server, exclusively through a CLI, also known as "command-line interface", without a display and keyboard attached to it, or simply called "in headless mode". Since i like to code in the Perl programming language, i had to do some digging into a couple of Apache server configuration files, to get my scripts working, as i already know it from my dedicated web server on the public internet. I also have set up "Duck DNS" pointing to my dynamic IP, and installed "Let's Encrypt" to get a secure connection via HTTPS for external access.
My parents like listening to "BBC Newsweek" in Cantonese, which is run by the British Broadcasting Corporation in London. But their website is not really reliable: Sometimes a new episode pops up and vanishes for no reason, by not being able to download the audio file, or just not showing up in the BBC podcast feed at all. This is why i wrote a Perl script, scheduled in "crontab", checking every 30 minutes for a new episode, and downloading it automatically from the BBC server, if it becomes available. Now they can take it down later, but we are still having a copy saved on the Pi Zero W. I made a simple "web user interface" for my parents, so they can listen to the episodes on demand, without to depend on the abilities of the BBC.
Back then, in September 2013, i covered the Fashion Week in London as independent photojournalist, and Reno Macri talked to me, after i made photos of him and his team attaching graphics at Somerset House. He offered me to print a photo of my choice on a "Dibond Panel", if i send him the photos. I didn’t know he was the founder of "Enigma Visual Solutions", a Office Design & Exhibition Stand Design firm, based in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. But after some research, i sent him everything, and later, he asked me to send him a photo to be printed on a large piece of "Aluminium Composite Sheet". I never had a photo in "real life" so big before, and i’m happy that i created something from scratch entirely for this purpose: My left hand holding three origami cranes, upcycled from old European maps. Cheers to Reno for being so nice.
FYI, in April 1987, as a British Dependent Territories citizen, born in Germany, i got my first British Passport from the British Consulate General in Düsseldorf. And i’m not sure how i feel about the UK leaving the EU, since i have a German Passport now, just like my parents, who were born in Hong Kong and therefore British Overseas Territories citizens. Whatever happens, the United Kingdom will always have a place in my heart, and not just because of the movie Notting Hill, or the TV show "Doctor Who". I also have relatives in England, who i visited and enjoyed being with: Thank you to Andrew Cheung and Ringo Tsang.
2018-01-16

The good old days are over

In 2004, i tried to run my own dedicated "Root Server", but i had not enough Linux skills to get it running only via PuTTY and a "command-line interface", although i already had some experience with SuSE Linux 6.x on the desktop computer through a GUI, also known as "Graphical User Interface". They even sent me a printed copy of "1&1 Root-Server Benutzerhandbuch", but i was a student at school, with no time left for studying a user manual, and still doing everything else. In 2005, i got me a "Managed Server" at 1und1, so i could keep up with the high traffic on my websites. On two occasions, i even had 2 servers running at the same time, because i needed to upgrade the server, by moving from one to the other. For example, in 2009, i had to move to another web hosting company, to keep the loading times of my pages low, at a reasonable price.
To give you an idea: In December 2015, i had over 12 million HTTP hits, with over 5 GB traffic, and in December 2017, i had over 13 million HTTP hits, with over 7 GB traffic. Years before, there was even more going on. FYI, i became quite good in optimizing efficiency. But i can’t get it to break even since a while: I’m just not getting enough from advertising to make it all work. Google Adsense and Amazon Associates are not cutting it anymore. After 14 years, in January 2018, i cancelled my dedicated web server, and i’m sharing a random server with other customers again, almost like twenty years ago, in 1998, when i had my first websites hosted for free on "FortuneCity". But i had a lot of fun, while we grew up together. I hope we stay in touch and think about the good old days, when everything was still possible. Maybe we do something great at a later point. Thank you, Internet.
The Irish band "The Corrs" released a nice song in 1998: "I haven't slept at all in days, It's been so long since we've talked, And I have been here many times, I just don't know what I'm doing wrong, What can I do to make you love me, What can I do to make you care, What can I say to make you feel this, What can I do to get you there, There's only so much I can take, And I just got to let it go, And who knows I might feel better, yeah, If I don't try and I don't hope."
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