Our Great Escape from Kaiserslautern

Thats it! We escape from Kaiserslautern. On Saturday, 20th June 2009 we celebrated our last night-out in Kaiserslautern. We leave for good, we leave for Vienna.

pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leobard/sets/72157620153553827/

Thanks to all the people who joined Ingrid and me at the party. Michael and Gunnar and Martin cooked an excellent mix of curries, pakoras, and other dishes. Henning and Maria brought icecream, Sebastian another dessert. Dominik and Nora brought salads, Jochen a nice tapas “rolled bacon with dates”. And more. Everyone enjoyed eating the resulting menu.

Hm, essen
Hm, Essen

I decorated and rearranged the flat a bit to accomodate more people and have a nice look.
Dominik und Nora
at the Balcony

As surprise cultural event, I decided to put up a street-bar. At 23:00 about half of the partygoers went down to the street and built a bar from 10 banana boxes (we have 70 of them around here for moving). On the bar we had chips, wine, and spirits.

Strassenbar aufbau

It attracted the right people

That went really well, later on we put down the bar again and went to fruchthalle to watch some tango dancing and other things.
coming up: Tango

That got boring after a while and we got a tip from someone performing that the Urban Biwak should be nice, so we went on:
Urban Biwak vom Kulturkollektiv

At this time, things get a bit blurry and not all stories must be told…
Gruppe Kunst

It all ended classically in Gusto, with a hard group of Gunnar, Max, Rinne, and me.
Max and Gunnar

Thanks to everyone for making this the great escape, it couldn’t have been better. I will miss you guys! See you in Vienna.

think twice when buying falk navigation systems with ActiveSync

I bought a FALK navigation system, the M8 2nd edition. The thing as such is excellent! It is very easy to use, has a good navigation, fits nicely into the car, excellent hardware.

My problems started with the software. They suggest you to also buy a map update to get updated maps every few months.

Done that, downloaded the new maps. To get the maps from the PC to the Navigation System, you need to install their “Falk Navi-Manager”. I wonder why, the bloody thing has a mini sd card reader and it could just read the maps from this. Anyway, installing the Navi-Manager includes installing the Microsoft ActiveSync client. Done that.

Now wanting to synchronize, on connecting, an ActiveSync problem pops up:
“cannot verify the version of activesync on your device. A program such as a firewall may be blocking a port ActiveSync uses to connect to the device, or you may need to upgrade to a more recent version of ActiveSync on the PC.”

  • search for falk online support
  • They have an falk online forum for support, which is useless because it does not allow you to post questions. Why the FUCK do you make a forum when I can’t post questions??? Better take the whole thing offline, if its just read-only thing labeled “forum”. I mean, if customers want to ask questions in a private forum which is controlled by you, and they can’t where will they ask questions? Right, on the web.
  • I Called the hotline. The hotline is nice and professional and they walk you to the typical steps of “turn off firewall”, “turn off virus scanner”, try reinstalling X, …
  • Someone from customer service said “ok, that may be because ActiveSync needs some port that is blocked. I had the same problem with another customer today and that guy found out. I can’t help you. Ask microsoft.”
  • Ok, then I ask for the microsoft support number. They say: go to the microsoft homepage. Did that and looked for the German Microsoft online help on ActiveSync, which is “not found”, 404. ARGH. FUCKKKKK
  • Ok, reinstalled ActiveSync to v4.5 (was there already). did not help
  • Bugged the support hotline, begging for favors, they offered that I can send the thing in and they do the update. Thats cool.

Lesson learned: The telephone support was good and they offered to help me as far as they could (“ok, then send us the thing …. grml…”)

But if you fucking want to sell navis, you better NOT the fuck use ActiveSync as your technical base but provide something that works out of the box on all machines. And on MacOs. And on Linux. Something like USB, something like my Digital Camera does: plain simple USB drives. And you better provide your customers a real online forum or they will need to find help on the web, publicly sharing their agony of having wasted a lot of money in a piece of hardware that is obsoleted in a year without updates which are blocked because of Microsoft ActiveSync being a mess with fucking “go to hell” error messages.

Next thing I will try: get a new computer and update the navi there, if that does not work – send the thing to falk.

Argh, I hate computers. Thats why I bought this hardware the first place…

blogging iran – know our peers

The current protests against the Iranian coup d’etat and election fraud are by people like us. Allededgly, the official results were 12% for Ahmadineschad and 62% were announced. Iran has more people under 30 than in our country, they read the web, they blog, they want to live their lives without gov threats.
I pray for them.

At the moment, the protests are peaceful and heart-touching things happen, such as these protesters protecting a captured policeman:

java reflection on generics

When you drill down far into Java reflection, you end up at the reflection class for generic types. This is, if you have

class Blah {
  T t;
  public T get() { return t; }
... Blah stringBlah = new Blah();

Then you can get the configured return type “String” by reflecting on the method “get”. The return type of that method is String. BUT if you need the generic variable T of Blah, you end up calling Blah.class.getTypeParameters(). And here the fun starts in the doc of TypeVariable:

The type parameter D represents the type of generic declaration that declared the underlying type variable.

wtf? this is as complex as playing braid.

phd step7: Defending the PhD

On Friday, 5th June 2009, I defended my PhD on “The Gnowsis Semantic Desktop approach to Personal Information Management”. I defined the PIMO ontology, an architecture built on gnowsis 0.9, and evaluated it. My conclusion is: the Semantic Desktop, as I define it, supports users in filing, finding, and thinking about information.

On Friday, I defended the thesis in a 30 minute talk. I concentrated on one story-line “knowing more than you can remember” and knowledge articulation. Thomas Roth-Berghofer passed on a tip by Professor Richter: have one slide in the presentation that is really complex, to show that you did something challenging. So I drilled down on the dropbox application to show the innards of the system. There was a misunderstanding between one Professor and the School of Informatics about the date, so we had to wait a bit until he finally arrived, but luckily everything went excellent. After the talk the Professors debated about the grade and then called me in, this raises the anxiousness effectively. They decided to grade me “sehr gut”, which translates to “magna cum laude” and is the second-best grade (after “summa cum laude”).

For preparation, I collected the major arguments that needed to be in the presentation, cut away all the details, took a lot of my slides from my previous 85 talks about the topics, and changed everything to give one coherent story with coherent examples. I also used a few structuring tricks, such as “in-between” slides to separate areas and nice rounded corners. Here is the presentation on slideshare:

Our tradition here goes on to meet at the institute, drink some sparkling wine and give cheers to the candidate. Professor Andreas Dengel, my supervisor, gave a very nice speech about my work and my personality. I gave thanks to my peers, God and Jesus, and to Ingrid, my wife. Then the tradition is to give the candidate a doctoral hat that is built by his peers. Here is the moment:

Leobard mit Doktorhut

My hat is awesome, it has a burning man in the middle, is made of tape sculpture, and glows in blacklight:
click the picture to read the details.

We then ate good food from the catering company “Klein-Partyservice” who are locals from Kaiserslautern. I also brought three crates of beer, which was more than enough for the 30 guests. Part of the celebration was opening a bottle of Barolo wine from my best friend Ebo, which tasted excellent. In the night, a few of us went to the frohlocker.de party in Kramladen and we had a lot of fun with the crew there, like bringing some good wine. And the robot:
Robot dancing frohlocker

DJ Frohlocker

Max and Heiko slept in Kaiserslautern and we all had breakfast together at my place, great:

This is the last important step of my three-year enterprise to blog about doing a dissertation on Semantic Desktop at DFKI (on that page you find trackback links to all steps).
The finishing step will be publication as book and then receiving the title.

phd step6: preparing the presentation, last minute panic

Today I will defend my Phd, which is another point in the long story I blogged about doing a phd.

Things to do 2h before going to the defence:

  • test your talk again. do it before good friends who you trust and who will give you positive feedback. In my case: Thomas Roth Berghofer and Olaf Grebner
  • but 3 crates of beer and 12 bottels of sparkling wine into the office refridgerator
  • use a lot of axe deo-spray to fight cold-sweat-of-panic
  • print your presentation slides in case armageddon happens and no beamer is available and you have to give your talk without beamer (thx to Olaf for the tip)
  • blog

Then, at 4pm, go and defend your thesis. To put it in starcraft-speak: The attackers will watch you build your base while they have enough time to go for resources and then do a zergling rush. So put your arguments into bunkers and use your tanks for cover fire. Anyway, they are not in for winning, its the joy of attacking you, remember that.

see you on the other side….