Vacation time – preparation time

Going on vacation always sounds easy. All you need to do is take time off of work, then check for a nice place to go to. You can have a look at glossy travel magazines, talk to someone in a travel agency or hunt for your vacation online. Your choice of destination might be influenced by your own experience, by another’s recommendation; you might have taken it on a whim. Good for you!

Up until now, it was a nice task. You are looking forward to your vacation, your time to relax. But in the end, is it relaxing?

This is the stage at which my inner, hidden German always wants to break out. Plan all the things! Create a checklist, and, just to be sure, create a checklist that you included everything on your checklist. A few years back, this was how I planned my most needed time off. I was one of the people that were holding a binder at the airport; in it all necessary documents for the planned journey: passport, hotel reservation, car hire info and so on. Everything needed to be printed, everything had its place. And, looking back at what I had done in the past, it honestly was not that relaxing.

Then, I moved to Ireland. Well, first I came to Ireland on vacation, which already showed me a glimpse of a different style. As stated before, Ireland works different in many ways, and this does not stop at vacation. While it is a country that heavily relies on visitors, more often than not planning something is an afterthought. In the last seven years I have travelled Ireland from north to south and from east to west; only once I had booked something in advance. Even during the summer vacation season, there is always a B&B around where you can turn in for the night, to continue your travel the next day. And even if your chosen location does not offer any rooms, they will just know who to ask.

I remember that on one trip with my father we were looking for a B&B around Kilkee/Kilrush, and we were turned down five or six times. This normally is the step where people start panicking. You could see that this was already happening to one of us. Luckily, we were always referred to the next B&B though and the last one even went out of their way to call multiple B&Bs around to find a place where we could stay. Needless to say, we had a few drinks at their pub to make up for the time they spent on the phone for us.

What I want to say here is that, while having everything planned out can be great, you might miss out on the more interesting moments of life. Sure, I could have phoned my preferred B&B to make a reservation, but that would mean that we have to be there at the given time. If we had wanted to stop 100km later or earlier, our booking and probably some or all money would have gone to waste. That can induce stress, at least it does so for me. Having the freedom to stop where I like it, and find something close by is in my mind well worth it not having a pre-made booking. In turn, you lift the pressure of an itinerary that dictates your next steps. You are in charge. Just be prepared not to be prepared. 🙂

Towel Day 2017

A wise man once wrote: 

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.  Partly because it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars that shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini-raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value.  For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in the possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit, etc etc.  Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker may accidentally have “lost”.  What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase which has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect?  There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.) “
– Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Today, we commemorate Douglas Adams by carrying our towels. Enjoy!

Orange towel hanging on raining of ferry, coast of Ireland in background
Towel Day 2014 – on a ferry from Ireland to France

Raspberry Pi SNES – console in a controller

About half a year ago I found an interesting article on a Raspberry Pi zero built into a custom printed back of an NES controller. I absolutely loved the idea, however, I had a few questions around it.

How does it feel to play with a (half) 3D printed controller, why not use the original back? Why an NES controller, wouldn’t it make more sense to use a SNES? 

So it was clear, I had a goal in mind: I need to build a Raspberry Pi zero into a SNES controller. Originally I wanted to utilise petRockBlog’s GPIO adapter to connect the controller bits and I also had one available, however, my soldering game was not that strong and I ended up destroying it. That was a sad day.

I did not touch the project build for half a year as I was trying to get hold of another GPIO adapter. At some point, however, I started to look into alternatives, it seemed clear that the adapter would not come back in stock. When you start to look for DIY alternatives there is one thing that I both like and dislike at the same time. There are sooooooo many different possibilities to do the same thing. And once you settled for one and start to implement, you do find an easier one.

Well, complicated version, here we go.  Continue reading “Raspberry Pi SNES – console in a controller”

What happened to the old blog?

I used to write a blog long before this one. About 9 years ago, when I broke up with my girlfriend I started to write not one, but eventually three different blogs. All revolved around my main activities back then.

One was a photo blog, which I maintained quite rarely, to be honest. The second was basically me “being emo” about the breakup. Today, I’m not sure why I even had that. The third one, however, was the main beast. A general interest personal blog, like this one, covering bits and pieces about my life and things I enjoy.

screengrab of the wordpress admin section

And over the course of nearly four years, I have managed to write up quite a lot. 349 blog posts, 23 pages, all garnished with reader engagement in 254 comments. Quite a nice set of numbers, for a personal random blog. I used to be a taxi driver, while I was in an apprenticeship as a software developer. I went to sneak previews nearly every week, commenting about the movie itself and about the people around me. And, of course, everyday items also found their way in.

The main portion, however, have been both Taxi stories and cinema sneak previews; both things that disappeared with the move to Ireland. I struggled for a while to come up with new and interesting stories but eventually, I simply gave up. There were more reasons to it, though. One being that my domain provider vanished from the surface of the earth leaving me with nothing but my backups; another one that I desperately wanted to come up with a kind of dual language approach, that I never managed, in part due to my poor English skills at the time.

Fast forward to today. One of my friends and colleagues “dragged” me into attending WordCamp Vienna this year, a good 5 years after I stopped writing. I thought that getting out to experience something new was a good thing and, well, my expectations have been exceeded, to say the least. It was enough to get me to change my vacation to be able to attend WordCamp Europe in Paris. And to start this blog.

Rarities in Ireland

In Enjoy the Little Things I already spoke about how important it is to take a moment and, well, enjoy the little things. We take a lot of things granted in our day to day life and often enough we realise that we should not have. This becomes especially true when you move abroad.

Back home we know what to get where. We know about our supermarkets, the favourite clothing shop, the hobby shop that provides our favourite items and so on. That all suddenly changes when you move abroad. A frequent question that I had when I moved first to Ireland was: “Where do I get THAT?”

Almost every time I was able to find an answer to that question. Or at least a workaround. When I tried to bake a german cheesecake, I substituted “Schichtkäse” with Quark. And since I only found one with 0% fat, I stretched it with a bit of cream. On top of that, figuring out that “Vanillepudding” is basically a vanilla custard, and both exist as a powder ready to make, was almost too easy. Original recipe? Not at all. But it works.

Some other things, however, are painfully absent from day to day life. Cold cuts other than ham, for example, are basically nonexistent. Good bread is a pain to find and if you do, make sure that the 100% rye is baked all the way. Paprika flavoured chips? What is that?
You get the point. There are items that are “typically german” which you can not get here. At least not easily. But we have both Lidl and Aldi, this mitigates the impact a little. Sure enough, these things do not greatly affect my daily life. But every now and then it would be nice to have something that you do not have on a daily basis.

Which brings me back to the beginning and enjoying the little things. Today our “Offie des Vertrauens” (our “trustworthy Off License”) offered a german beer that I wholeheartedly enjoy and recommend if you are into darker beers. Köstritzer Schwarzbier, a black beer, originally from Bad Köstritz in Thuringia, but nowadays known in all of Germany. So tonight, I will be enjoying a not so little, little thing from back home.

Koestritzer Schwarzbier Bottle and Glass
Köstritzer Schwarzbier, image courtesy of Bitburger http://www.bitburger-braugruppe.de/

Ireland be like

This morning I had a real “this is Ireland” moment.

As mentioned in a previous post, I commute to work by bus. This means that I need to walk through the city centre in the early morning hours. The city is mostly quiet in these hours before the main business starts.

So today it was “raining cats and dogs” (A peculiar saying… I never understood why it is like that. In german we usually say that it is “pouring from buckets”). A type of weather where I would usually want to stay at home. That said, I am lucky to work in an office, so at least at work, I will stay dry.
On such a rainy day, there is one particular job that I would have not expected to see. Nevertheless, there he was this morning, a window cleaner. Cleaning the outside of a shop window. While the rain was hitting it pretty hard.

That’s Ireland. A surprise behind every corner. Every day anew.

Visual Studio! For Mac!

Yes, you have read correctly. Yesterday was a great day for me. Microsoft released the final version of Visual Studio for Mac.

During my software developer years, I have used Visual Studio quite extensively, in both 2005 and 2008 iterations. The .NET Framework 2.0 and 3.0 were my second home, a lot of good ideas have been coded in these years.

When I switched to Mac one of my biggest regrets has been that I don’t have an IDE as intuitive as Visual Studio available. Sure, I have tried XCode and a few others like Aptana Studio 3, and as much as I like them, they never felt as good to work with.

Now, seven years have passed since I moved to Mac. And it is close to seven that I am not working in software development anymore. I have looked into the IDE iterations on the Windows side, but ultimately I never ended up coding anything.

Yet, this release is as exciting to me as it can be. I’ll let you know if I ended up doing something with it. For now, I will savour the moment and enjoy the image of myself running around like a little overly excited child. You need that, every now and then.

SSL secured!

Thanks to letsencrypt.org my little blog is now SSL/TLS secured.

letsencrypt.org is a great way to make the web a better place, by offering a free and open Certificate Authority (CA). Everyone can receive certificates for their websites. Have a look at their website to learn more about it.

The process itself was a bit of work since godaddy.com, my hosting provider, does not offer a direct implementation of letsencrypt.org. Which makes sense if you consider that certificates are part of their sales program. Setting up a manual certification process was easy enough, although not quite straightforward. I had to dig in and find bits and pieces that were a bit tricky, at least on first glance. Or maybe I am again hunting zebras instead of horses. Luckily I mainly use a Mac to work on, I honestly wouldn’t know what to do on my Windows machine. Maybe I should give that a try some time.

To maybe make it easier for someone, here is what I did:

 

Continue reading “SSL secured!”