Published on May 04th, 2013
Acoustical music always fascinated me. Since I am a musician myself, I can empathize with the feelings of another musician playing a song live without being squeezed into the big productional act of a studio record. It is thrilling to play music that way and even more exciting for the listener, especially when it comes to the dramatically reduced set of accompanying instruments. A song being performed, for example, only with guitar and vocals feels amazingly intimate, brings the voice and lyrics incredibly close, and is able to reveal a lot more of the feeling an artist put into the song while writing it.
This feeling — the purity and intimacy of acoustic music, exposing the artistic brilliance — is what I wanted to capture in this playlist. I intend to extend it over time (which is why you should definitely subscribe to it), collecting one-of-a-kind acoustic versions of songs, that provide a truly great artistic performance, embraced by a reduced set of instruments.
Published on November 30th, 2012
Image courtesy of Efterklang
Quite by accident I stumbled upon a new treasure for my music collection. I was surfing AUDIO.de to check out the newest geeky audio gadgets when I happened to read about Efterklang's album “Piramida” which was pretty well received, so I gave it a try. Well, what can I say? I’ve been playing the record back to back countless times in the past few days. I love it.
The genre is what the guys at AUDIO called Art-Pop, which seems fitting. It's mostly synthetic and quite unconventional. It has some influences from progressive music, which hits a soft spot somewhere in me. I just love it. I encourage everyone with interest in more profound music to give them a try.
Publiziert am 25. November 2012
Aufgenommen mit der iPhone 5 Kamera und Panoramafunktion. Das Große Haus des Staatstheaters Oldenburg sah ich zuerst vor vielen Jahren, als ich selbst als Techniker einer Musicalgruppe einmal die Bühne bespielen durfte. Schon damals war ich fasziniert vom wundervollen italienischen Renaissancestil, in dem das Theater und das Große Haus gehalten sind.
Die Gelegenheit zum obigen Foto hatte ich durch eine Konzertaufnahme des Sinfoniekonzertes vom 19. Dezember, die wir im Rahmen des Kurses Studiotechnik 2 machten. Ein tolles Erlebnis und ein Grund mehr, das Studium am IHA zu lieben.
Published on October 19th, 2012
In my childhood I read a whole lot. I really digged a fine number of children's books, like The Three Investigators, Famous Five, and a lot of others. I read countless ones and about 99 per cent of those where rented at the local library.
A little later I started buying books and the Harry Potter novels were some of the first books I possessed, accompanied by the majority of Dan Brown's novels and a few from Ken Follett, just to name a few. Unfortunately I completely stopped reading books a while after that. The internet was upon me and I completely lost the interest in fictional novels and the experience of letting your imagination work for you. I guess I arrived in the digital age, explored the internet where everything was fast and new, while books implied heavily a heritage of the past.
Now several years older, and hopefully more mature, I decided to give books another try. So, a few months ago I got myself a Kindle and with that combined the digital age with the beautiful experience of reading a story for hours.
What I experienced since then is mind-blowing even compared to the large quantity and frequency I managed to read in my childhood years. In the first two weeks I read four novels (by the way the brilliant series of David Hunter novels by Simon Becket — great thrillers, you can grab them here: No.1, No.2, No.3, and No.4) and that alone blew me away.
By now I made reading a big hobby again and I grab my Kindle in every free minute throughout the day. A little while ago, I would spend sleepless nights in front of the computer screen, trying out random stuff, basically wasting time on things that would lead nowhere. Now I spend the same sleepless nights reading. The world that is connected 24/7/365 stays outside and for the time being, I don't even care about it. Sure, the reading leads to nothing more than the knowledge of another story. But using your imagination in that amount is a great stimulation. Greater than brooding over the web, sometimes even fudging things to keep busy.
Getting a Kindle was the best idea I had in a long time and I regret, not having started earlier. And I would like to propose a rule to live by: Everybody should read. It's a great balance for the hectic life that's all around us. It takes your mind off the things causing you otherwise uninterrupted contemplation. Everybody should take at least one hour per day, maybe to rest after lunch or —even better— as a bedtime ritual, reading something that suits their interests. But it has in all accounts to be done offline.
Published on September 12th, 2012
Today it has been 100 days since I installed Weightbot on my iPhone. Well, starting to track my weight alone is not in any way interesting, is it? But with that day I started changing my life as much as never before, because along come other installations. Some might not know this, but I have been overweight for my entire life. I am not going to reveal specifics, because I am still not proud of the numbers on the scale. But in fact there is a number that I am proud of.
In the past 100 days I lost 44 pounds (20 kilograms)
A hundred days ago I realized I had to change a lot about myself. Being overweight your entire life, does not mean your body is immune to the overly increased weight load. It might be bearable in your youth, but as you get older, you are starting to notice what the weight does to you. And week by week it gets worse if nothing changes.
I am 21 now and I noticed that exactly. I was out of breath quickly, could not take a flight of stairs to take an appointment without having to take a minute, cooling down in the stairwell. It was hard to get out of bed and my joints, especially my knees started aching permanently.
Pushing back the decay
It frightened me, how decay was so noticeably present, and I just knew I had to take action. And I did. I got an appointment at a dietician (had said out-of-breath experience once again, walking up the stairs) and signed up for a serious diatetic treatment. While she was not all too strict about what I should change and only pointing out “advices”, I took it very seriously myself. I basically changed my nutrition in its entirety. And while I am still rigorous with myself, I am not forcing anything in. I am just much more disciplined about what my body really needs to ingest, and what is just dead freight along the way.
Around day 50 I felt I had to do even more. By changing my nutrition I already felt much better and lost a lot of weight. The best word to describe my mood and sentiment is “vital”. But while Nutrition sure is important to lose weight and feel better, something else can not be forgotten.
A good nutrition’s best friend is exercising
I had been exercising before, but it had been years since the last time I went to a gym. Being overweight always meant for me to be unathletic and I never really enjoyed working out. It had just been a way to gain muscles and a harsh reminder that a fit body does not come to you over night. That is probably why I gave it up a few times before.
But the day I started working out at my new gym 50 days ago, I really —and I mean really— enjoyed it. I never felt that before and I loved it. It made me happy instantaneously and had a smile on my face for hours after the workout. And I kept going. I went to the gym at least every second day, sometimes up to five times a week and almost got addicted. It became ingrained into my daily routine and on day 100 I can tell, that I never want to stop exercising again. It is just the best way to drain the batteries for a good cause and to free up your mind. I love it.
What has been missing before
And on the already countless hours on elliptical trainers and stationary bikes I thought about why I loved my changed life so much. And I thought about what exactly changed. I couldn’t find a word for it until a few days ago, when I read an article by Joel Runyon about getting disciplined, not motivated and it really hit me like a ton of bricks. What I had been missing my whole life was discipline!
Ever since I started thinking about my overweight very early on —other kids can be cruel and a former crush calling you a fatso really flicks a switch in your head— the only thing that has been missing was discipline. Countless diets lead nowhere and hours of exercise were futile, as I did not have the guts to just tell my brain to shut up in its mission to stop me, and doing it anyways. The steps I took to change it were just not confident enough.
Now I have the motivation, confidence, and most importantly the discipline to do it. And I am proud of what I have achieved so far. And even though 44 pounds are a lot, I will not stop here. No sir, not at all. This was just the beginning and there is much more for me to do to get were I want to go: Next intermediate goal is 66 pounds. (30 kilograms) total weight loss. Lets see how long that takes me.
Published on September 04th, 2012
Streaming services like Spotify are fantastic. They are rather inexpensive and even though I’m still purchasing music just like I did before subscribing, I use Spotify more and more every day. They have great apps on all important platforms and that often leaves iTunes closed in the dock when casually listening to music or creating a playlist for my workout. Spotify just offers a huge variety on every genre and even on the go, I have all that music on the iPhone in my pocket and no matter what my mind is up to — in over 15 million songs there is always one that fits the mood I’m in. But artists aren’t that happy with streaming services. The revenue out of a single stream is tremendously small.
The article below explains, why supporting an artist can not be done by solely listening to his songs on streaming services like Spotify. If you really want to promote good music and support artists, you have to buy their releases. No matter if it’s in physical media or online on iTunes or any other store: go get purchasing.
Published on August 30th, 2012
Yesterday I stumbled upon a series of articles from and about Mat Honan, a tech journalist over at wired.com. He recently got some of his most important accounts hacked, including his Gmail, Twitter and especially his iCloud account, which enabled the hackers to remotely wipe his iPhone, iPad and MacBook with lots of invaluably precious data on it, like photos of his young daughter that were never backed up.
I tried to stay unbiased while reading the article, because I know how it hurts to lose important data. But I couldn’t. I am a security and backup nerd and in my honest opinion, someone leaving their machines without backup —especially considering the background Honan has in the tech journalism and the sensitivity of the data— is just foolish. So I allow myself to make a seemingly harsh judgement: In a way he had it coming.
But I am on his side when it comes to the screw-ups of other involved parties. There sure is something wrong with the security policies at Apple and Amazon and I, as a customer of both of them, am very angry they pull off something like that. Frankly I never liked the idea of possible password resets via phone, because it brings in one more human interaction that would not be necessary. Human interaction leads to failure and that is the least you want, if your account contains vital information, like your credit card data or is empowered with major security mechanisms, like Find My Mac/iPhone that can be used to remotely erase large amounts of important data in just a few clicks.
Honan is right, this entire shindig would not have been possible if those two companies would have had their security bullet-proofed. But they’re not alone to blame and Honan admits that, too. The minute I heard about Google’s 2-step verification, I was already hitting the Google settings and was enabling it. Same thing just happened a few days ago with Dropbox as they introduced 2-step verification to their accounts. Heard of it, enabled it. Seriously, it’s just that simple for me. There is no reason to think twice on things like this, only a reason to authenticate twice and this hack holds up to be that reason.
To clear something up: Honan did get most of his data back. The next article explains how accounts on Google are not wiped completely the second you hit “delete”. There are ways to recover your data on services like Gmail. But it is a pain-in-the-ass procedure, answering a long … looong list of questions in online forms to make sure, you previously owned the account.
As you see recovery is not always possible. About 25% of the data was lost, since the remote wipe had already processed that much of the hard drive. And once wiped, you will never get any of it back. That is just a fact. Honan was lucky the Apple genius was so helpful to interrupt the wiping process so DriveSavers could attempt to recover the non-wiped data. And he was even more lucky he haven’t had FileVault 2 enabled. In this case the wiping process would take only a quick reboot and the data would have been lost within seconds, since the wiping process then only consists of erasing the encryption key of FileVault.
Well, I have my Mac secured with FileVault. Every file on the hard drive is encrypted and can only be used when I unlock the encryption layer with my password. So I would be screwed if the hard drive would be remotely wiped by mistake or attack, right? Wrong. Because I do backups.
As I explained earlier, I am a cautious guy. Not only I do enable every possible extensive security features on accounts I have around the web. I also keep two full backups of the data that is on my machine. One is a Time Machine backup, kept on an encrypted partition on my NAS and a second one is a bootable backup, created with Carbon Copy Cloner on an encrypted external hard drive. The Time Machine backup of course is always as up to date as possible. Maximum amount of lost data: The stuff I was working on in the last hour or maybe a few days when I haven’t been at home and could not do the backup. The bootable backup is not that up to date, but I get reminded of plugging in every few days and that way, even if my Time Machine backup would die the same time my Mac's content is compromised, I would only lose a few days worth of data.
All three systems failing simultaneously would be a nightmare. The worst case scenario, like hell freezing over. But lets be honest: that is highly unlikely to be happening. And that unlikeliness didn’t cost me a fortune. Everyone can afford that kind of backup plan, especially if being an established tech journalist for the last decade or more. ;-)
So what I am trying to, is to make a point. We live in a connected world. Every service can somehow be linked to another and by that the one's flaw can fuel another one’s flaw. And pretty soon, bad things can and probably will happen. If you are registered with tens of dozens of accounts on the web, one of them is always the weakest and is very likely to become the stepping stone for a successful exploit.
Yes, you probably can’t keep track all of your accounts’ security. But you should never lose track of the big ones. Remember accounts like Apple, Google, Amazon, Dropbox or Facebook and use every additional security feature they offer. Enable two-step verification wherever possible. I am sure that in near future even Amazon and Apple will make use of something like it and I think they have to. The account security they offer right now is just to weak.
If you ask me, the only way I would want some account’s password to be reset would be via an online form and only upon entering a much more information than just my address and a few credit card digits, or worse: only receiving an e-mail with a link. This kind of thing has to be bullet proof especially if sensitive data is involved. But lastly it’s the user who has to watch out for the flaws of his own security.
Published on August 26th, 2012
I have been on Wordpress since the very first blog post I ever wrote. In the very early days, it was just a hosted blog on wordpress.com but soon after, I set up my first web server and ran Wordpress from there for over five years. I really enjoyed the endless possibilities you have with running your own Wordpress installation. It is great to be able to change everything about it and to dig deep into the countless files that incorporate the whole package. But with depth comes confusion, at least on some part. And since I probably just touched the basics on how to actually work with Wordpress, it mostly felt like just taking care of how it looks to me and my visitors.
While the theme I am using right now is actually my second “major release” called Simplicity, I started working on the first theme Awesomeness back in 2009 and had little clue about the whole web design thing. It was a real learning-by-doing experience that took me years to get where I am today. And with my expertise growing, I changed the theme countless times, improved it, and customized it more and more to what I thought would fit my needs. And frankly that was mostly by cutting back things I would not need.
To put that in one word: It was all about simplification. The base that Wordpress provides is huge and while some features may seem very useful at first, most of the stuff is needless for my purposes and just bloats up the site. That’s why I took many features off of my theme and made it real simple.
As my desire for simplicity grew bigger over time, I started to feel uncomfortable with Wordpress. Sure, it never even got close to being simplistic, and I got along with that. Until now. Now I want to try something new, something with a very different approach. Something that would need to be discovered from the ground up, something that meets my level of curiosity. And most importantly something that is much more simple than Wordpress ever was or will be.
For quite a while I have been hearing about file system based CMSes and the simplistic approach of not using a database but a simple collection of folders to run and manage your site and its content. This really made me curios, and some days ago I learned about Kirby. The second I started reading more about Kirby, I was impressed and excited about it. It totally appealed to me, in its structure, in its native support of markdown, in its flexibility and everything and so I started running a test setup for some days. I imported my Wordpress posts as a content basis and played around with it a lot, to tried out how Kirby would fit my newly sharpened sense of simplicity.
Speaking of simplicity: As the release of the Simplicity theme has not been that long ago and it still embodies my idea of “my favorite kind of simple” , I wanted to stick with it a little while longer. So I completely rebuilt it for Kirby and actually this was the first time I really started the whole process from the ground up, since the work on Awesomeness was based on the original Classic theme for Wordpress and Simplicity for Wordpress was based on Awesomeness.
It was exciting to port my work and I really see some benefits in it. By rebuilding Simplicity from the ground up, I got rid of all the things I did not like about it, considering its back end. The basis of Awesomeness was already “contaminated” by the work of other people and even though I basically changed everything about the theme and its structure, it always kept some parts that messed it up, even if it’s just the name of a div tag I didn’t not care about so much. With the port to Kirby, the code is now very clean and structured and nothing about it is overloaded. I am really proud of it and like the way it turned out.
With everything being neat and clean and the site is also fast as hell. That is certainly one big benefit from using Kirby. The overhead that goes to the framework is significantly smaller than it was on Wordpress. And the coolest thing about it: Since Kirby is so lightweight and amazingly simple, for the first time ever I will not be cutting back features, but actually actively extend them.
And that is exactly what I was hoping for. It is much more fun to build a site from a very small basis and steadily extend it over time while simultaneously keeping the state of simplicity, rather than just cutting back to finally achieve the latter after a long time.
Published on August 23rd, 2012
URL shorteners are a cool in some occasions. They allow you to shrink a huge 150+ character URL into a very short one, mostly about 20 chars. That is especially useful if you have to be economic in your use of characters. One service that really matters on is of course Twitter. For years people have been using URL shorteners like bit.ly and tinyurl.com or they even set up their very own one with scripts like yourls.
A while ago, in its long ongoing attempt to totally close the platform, Twitter introduced its own URL shortener, t.co and shortly after declared that any link contained in a tweet will always be shortened with t.co, whether you want it or not and whether it’s longer or shorter than the actual shortened URL.
That especially means that even 3rd party shortened links will get shortened a second time. Well, at first that just sounds stupid. Does that even make sense? Of course it doesn’t. And the main reason is not the shortening of a shortened URL.
The Twitter URL shortener may seem like it’s pretty useless after all. But actually it is not. The integration of t.co’s API into every Twitter client including the website itself allows those clients to resolve the shortened URL before displaying it. So what you will actually see is the first few 20 or 30 characters of the real URL behind the shortened one, then abbreviated by “…”. By that you will never get to see a t.co URL anywhere — assuming you are using an up-to-date client and are not copying the link out of your client. In that case, some clients will hand over the shortened URL.
The pre-resolving of the t.co URLs gives your readers the advantage of total control about what they are really clicking for. How many times in the past have we seen rather unfunny use of the concealed state of shortened URLs? You can’t tell whether you are going for a news article or onto a porn site (or yet another highly overused Rick Rolling video) before you actually click the link, and while links like bit.ly or tinyurl can be resolved before being displayed, too, it requires the developers of clients to integrate numerous different shorteners. Having run quite a few clients over time I can tell that most of devs did not make use of that ability. And I get that. Now that Twitter does shorten a link no matter what, developers can just do that one integration and are good to go.
What messes up the complete disclosure of shortened links are users who continue to use “the old shorteners” on Twitter. Sure, they may have their reasons. The use of the analytics features, sharing the link via various different networks, etc. But still it makes no sense to me. To be honest, seeing a shortened, unresolved URL on Twitter these days even stops me from clicking it. The rest of the tweet would have to be very convincing and clear about the underlying content to get me over the fact, that it is just inconvenient and ugly.
I don’t know if I am the only one who thinks like that, so I would like to know in the comments below!
Published on August 18th, 2012
A while back I started working out again and I love doing my daily dose of sports with some music around my head. At first I was to lazy to set up my own workout playlist but after spending some time crawling the web for anything that accommodates my taste, I noticed I had to get my hands dirty. Otherwise I would have to use one of those gazillion playlists that only consist of Hip-hop and R&B tunes or even worse
brainy and annoying Techno mixes. I could never work out with something like that. They are not at all motivational and, considering the Hip-hop and R&B tunes, way too slow in tempo.
So I took the time and created my own workout playlist out of my collection. I am sure that I might not be the only person who likes to work out with real music like some uptempo rock and pop tunes and so I am sharing the playlist with you via Spotify. Feel free to subscribe to it, as I will extend it with new tracks every once in a while. Hope you like it!
Per request: If you want to click through my other public playlists on Spotify, you can do that on my Spotify profile: janwillhaus.de/spotify. As always — feel free to subscribe.