Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

Mapping website visitors.

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

world map showing website visitor locationsSiteMeter has started offering a view of recent website visitors a few months ago. A nice feature, which I sometimes check out. Today’s map is good enough to be shown. The criteria for good enough is: representative enough. Since only the last 100 visits are shown using a free SiteMeter account, it is difficult to capture the the breadth of the global distribution. The rarer visitors come from specific locations (Latin America and Australia are both pretty rare for me), the easier they fall out of the ‘last 100 visitors’ statistics.
In this map you see two things that are typical: visitors from the Islamic world (parts of Africa, the Middle East but most of them from Malaysia) who come to read my comparison of Ibn Khaldūn and Comte, and a substantial amount of visitors from North America. European visitors are mostly from Germany, but also from Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Scandinavia, the Baltic States and the other European countries.

Feines Design.

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

Christine Kitta, die bereits die Webseiten von Florian und Herbert Schui gestaltet hat und auch einen Teil des Designs für die Konferenz Technisierung / Ästhetisierung unseres Graduiertenkollegs übernommen hat, stellt nun auch ihre eigenen Seiten ins Netz. Wer also Gestaltungsaufgaben oder Illustrationen für Gedrucktes oder das Internet braucht werfe doch mal einen Blick auf Tinis Website:


Monday, February 6th, 2006

Puha. Endlich habe ich mich durchgerungen, mein E-Mail Konto mit dem Benutzernamen frers bei aufzulösen. Nachdem ich schon seit einigen Monaten nur noch eine Weiterleitung auf mein gmail / googlemail Konto laufen hatte, habe ich nun das Konto ganz gelöscht. Eine Bürde ist von mir genommen. Ungefähr 80% der Spammails, die ich über meine privaten E-Mail Adressen bekomme, gingen an die Adresse. Dazu kommen dann noch die ständigen, nervigen InformationsWerbe-Mails von – alles in allem: kaum zu ertragen. Das Webinterface ist auch penetrant.
Nun wünsche ich Google viel Vernügen beim indizieren meiner E-Mails… Wer das vermeiden will, kann die E-Mails ja verschlüsseln – entweder mit PGP/GPG (mein Schlüssel ist unten in der Seitenleiste verlinkt) oder mit meinem Thawte E-Mail Zertifikat (findet sich in meinen signierten Mails).

Late christmas revelation.

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

Whoa! Today I noticed that the visit count for this website has crossed the 50.000 mark – if I interpret my SiteMeter statistics correctly, the 50.000 visitor must have clicked her or his way to this site on the 23rd or 24th of December.
I want to take this as an occassion to thank all of those who spend a bit of their time on this site. I sincerely hope that I was able to provide something of interest to you – although I do fear that all those who were googling marlene dietrich were not particularly intrigued on visiting this site…

Die Segnungen des DVB-T auf dem heimischen Laptop.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

Der Weihnachtsmann hat neue technische Errungenschaften in den heimischen Haushalt befördert: der Miglia TVMini USB-2 Stick inklusive der Mac-Software EyeTV lag schön verpackt unterm Baum. Ausgepackt ist der Stick angenehm klein und wird entweder direkt oder über das mitgelieferte USB Kabel angeschlossen. Zusätzlich zu dem USB Ein/Ausgang des Sticks befindet sich auch ein Antenneneingang an dem Stick, an dem mittels des ebenfalls mitgelieferten Adapters normale Koaxialkabel von Antennen angeschlossen werden können, über die dann der Empfang der DVB-T Signals stattfindet. Wenn die – bedienungsfreundliche – Software installiert ist, startet selbige beim Einstecken des Sticks und zeigt auch gleich das Fernsehprogramm auf dem zuletzt eingestellten Kanal. Angenehm, denn so läuft die Chose schnell, wenn man sie braucht, weil zum Beispiel in wenigen Sekunden der Tatort beginnt.
Der Kabelkrams hält sich in Grenzen, die Installation ist einfach, der Empfang selbst mit der kleinen, mit Magnet versehenen mitgelieferten Stabantenne ordentlich und versorgt einen mit bewegten Bildern.
In Buchholz und in Kisdorf bei Kaltenkirchen (beides im Hamburger Umland) habe ich knapp 30 Programme empfangen, hier in Berlin sind es 29 Fernsehprogramme und dazu noch 32 Radioprogramme. Anfangs dachte ich, die Radioprogramme würden mich nicht weiter interessieren, habe dann aber gleich beim ersten Ausprobieren eine ganz besondere Perle erwischt: RadioEins hat am 30. Dezember nachts eine Aufzeichnung des Konzerts von der wirklich wunderbaren und fabelhaften Emiliana Torrini in der Berliner Passionskirche ausgestrahlt. Nachdem ich meinen vor Freude aufgeklappten Kiefer geschlossen und meine Hirnwindungen wieder in Schwung gebracht hatte musste ich bloss noch das Knöpfchen für Aufzeichnung drücken und bin nun glücklicher Besitzer eines Konzertmitschnitts meiner derzeitigen Lieblingssängerin. Allein dafür hat sich die Anschaffung schon gelohnt.
Aber auch die Fernsehübertragung ist super: man bekommt beim Umschalten immer den Titel und die Sendezeit der aktuellen und der folgenden Sendung angezeigt. Eine nützliche Angelegenheit. Die Qualität ist auch sehr gut, so dass es selbst mit der Winzantenne nur selten zu Bildruckeln kommt, das sich aber durch Veränderung der Antennenausrichtung beheben lässt. Erstklassige Sache das. Besonders nett ist das Zusammenspiel zwischen EyeTV und dem Fernsehen Widget.

Seeds becoming sprouts.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

Slowly, slowly the tender cultivating of this website produces the first tendrils of plants that are to grow in size, develop leaves, blossoms, and with a bit of luck, further seeds. Two new sprouts have been observed this week.

Yesterday, Michael Guggenheim contacted me asking if I would like to organize a workshop in next year’s easst conference together with him. Of course I do! Today, we wrote the call for papers on the topic Technology, buildings and interaction. (This was the first time that I used SubEthaEdit for scientific writing and I must say that it worked out really well. We completed the call in just about two hours, both writing in one text document at the same time, connected over the internet. Most excellent.) I really want to thank Michael for his initiative and for contacting me about this.
While I was editing around in the call, a mail arrived in my inbox, which I first ignored because we wanted to get the call done as soon as possible. When I finally read the mail I was taken by – pleasant – surprise. The editorial board for the 2nd edition of the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (Macmillan) contacted me, asking if I would contribute an entry on Ibn Khaldun. That I will very gladly do. It is excellent to see that Ibn Khaldun‘s contributions to the social sciences will be acknowledged in the encyclopedia.

The gardener is happy, I have to say. Caring for this website will continue in the hope that further germs develop into plants. I am excited about what kind of sprout we see popping through the surface next.

Time to update.

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Yesterday, the Mozilla Foundation has released the new stable version of Firefox. I definitely recommend downloading and installing the 1.5 release if you are on windows. It is more stable, more web compliant, and of course, it includes some security fixes. If you’re using Internet Explorer please give Firefox a test drive for a few days. If people would stop using Internet Explorer versions 6 and prior, the web would become a much more efficient and accessible place because websites could be coded using modern standards without tons of hacks to work around the catastrophe that is Internet Explorer’s rendering engine.

Enveloping myself.

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

I like to travel, but there is one major downside to traveling: noise. It is worst in airplanes. Even if the flight is just an hour long, I feel totally knocked out during the flight and probably for the following hours too. The noise inside the plane is just too much for me. In trains the noise is more subdued, depending on where one sits, depending on the train, and on the quality of the tracks. Nonetheless, after more than four hours the noise starts to nag at me, producing a certain feeeling of unrest – a feeling between being tired and being over-sensible.
More than a year ago, I read about a new generation of consumer headphones that have built-in active noise cancellation technology, which was said to reduce noise by neutralizing it with anti-noise (you should know a bit about the nature of waves to guess how this works). Since then, such a noise-canceling headphone has taken one of the highest priorities on my gadget wish-list.
A few weeks ago, after finishing some tiresome work optimizing the HTML code for a friend’s website I decided I’m in for a reward, checked the current offerings for noise canceling headphones, and decided that the Sennheiser’s PXC series is what I am looking for. After doing some price comparisons I decided to place a bid for the 250 model on eBay. I got lucky and bought the thing for 78 € including shipping.
The PXC 250 is a foldable headphone that is designed to be easily transportable. The one thing that differentiates it from other portable headphones is a stick about as thick as my thumb and about twice as long. This stick is home to two AAA batteries and (at least I would guess so) the noise-cancellation electronics. The cable from the headphone jack goes into it and another cable leads from the stick to the headphones. The stick is probably the biggest drawback to the whole thing, because one has to decide where to put it. At least it has a clip that allows attaching the stick to your belt or, as I usually do, to one of the pockets of my pants. The length of both cables is a bit less than a meter. If you’re not taller than 2.10 meters this should work for you. The headphone itself is light and comfortable to wear. It is, however, not as comfortable as my Koss Porta Pro, because the earpads exert a bit more pressure on your outer ear. This is necessary though – the pads will passively filter out the higher frequencies thus they have to fit tightly enough to not let sound pass by unobstructed. Still, after several hours of wear it is a relief to take them off for a while and massage your ears a bit.
On the stick there is a well-designed sliding button that turns on the noise cancellation. Before turning it on in a train you will hear rumbling and other lower frequency noises. After turning it on you will hear … less. The rumbling fades away to a gentler, smoother lower frequency noise. This general reduction of volume along with the smoothing has a soothing effect. The noise is definitely not gone, but it surely is less bothersome. You can use this feature without having the headphone plugged in to another device. This noise reduction is also great if you want to listen to music: you don’t need to turn the volume as high as you would have to without the noise cancellation. This makes listening to music less stressful too. Great stuff. Excellent investment.
If you turn the thing on in a silent environment you will notice a subtle hiss in the speakers. This hissing noise is, at least to me, practically inaudible in a train or a similarly noisy environment. If you want to use the headphones without the noise cancellation turned on you will be disappointed. The bass will be much to low – there seems to be some kind of loudness function associated with the noise filter. Other than that the sound quality of the PXC 250 is very good; I would say it is in the same league as the excellent Porta Pro. All in all I can definitely recommend this device. I am looking forward to test it in an airplane, but I am quite confident that it will make flying a less bothersome experience.
The only real drawback that I am feeling is that this thing will make the envelope that I build around me while traveling even less permeable. Of course I can work better and listen to music in a more relaxed manner when wearing these headphones. Nonetheless, it also lessens my contact to my surroundings. I am less approachable, won’t hear people having a conflict, won’t hear the chatter of others around me, won’t hear nice stories people might tell each other. Some chances will just pass by without being noticed. *sigh* Such is the nature of envelopment.

Design by Christine Kitta #2.

Friday, November 4th, 2005

Florian Schui is the second member of the Schui family for whom Christine Kitta has provided pleasant web design. You can check out his site, including cv, list of publications and so forth under the address I am looking forward to visiting Florian in his new home in Ireland… (Perhaps Tini should add a few leprechauns to the design in an easter egg fashion – hover over Florian’s face and a funky leprechaun pops up.)

Good deeds.

Saturday, October 29th, 2005

A month ago, I changed the CSS code for the online version of my diploma thesis, introducing separate style definitions for printing. Yesterday, I also wrote a style sheet for the rest of my website – excluding home page and blog, on which I will work later. Printing should be even more fun now. Making the changes was pretty easy, since I could use most of the template that I made for the diploma thesis part of my website.

At this point, we are in the good deed singular stage. What’s up with the plural? Well, after reading about the cash crisis for quake helicopters on BBC, I remembered that I wanted to donate money for the tsunami relief effort last year. Actually, I kind of did not donate last year. Money seems much scarcer for this disaster, and this together with my bad conscience from last year encouraged me to do now what I wanted to do last year. (There are a few donation related links in the article.)

Rating, rating, rating.

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

Finally! Today I finished rating all the appropriate tracks in my iTunes library – yay! This means I have rated more than 3600 songs. Whew. I guess have been gnawing myself through my library for a time span of about ten months or so. I did and do not rate classical music, audiobooks, and plays (which would add up to another 500 tracks). As regular readers will already know, I am tending to be a generous rater/reviewer, which gives me 440 five star ratings, 1673 four star ratings, about 200 two star ratings and just 39 single star ratings (those are the songs which I might eventually delete anyway). Now I only have to rate songs when I add them to the library – something that I will only do step by step, since the 40 GB hard disk of my PowerBook doesn’t offer much space anymore.

Multimedia ahoy.

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005

Frers Productions is proud to present: Perception, Aesthetics and Envelopment a video recording and the outline of my talk at our post-graduate college’s concluding conference. Thanks to Lars Meier for recording it – and of course for co-hosting the session, thanks to the rest of the grandiose organization team of the conference and thanks of course to the other participants of the Larses’ panel Urban Spaces and Private Quarters for a good and constructive discussion.

I was made aware of a two people who developed similar ideas to the concept of envelopment: Georg Simmel (could have thought of that myself, since I read and even lectured about the relevant essay on Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben several times. The other hint was on the term personal bubbles which seems to be used quite frequently in the anglo-american world – I am still looking for more info on this term, but it seems that it carries some different connotations. Furthermore, I don’t think of the envelope as something that can burst or pop like a bubble. It is more like a field or sphere or a ball of cotton. Nonetheless, good to know about it. Another idea came back to me later: Richard Sennett, of course, has also talked about a sphere of comfort that is produced in city of today in the book that still has the most pivotal influence on my current work: Flesh and Stone.

Back to the title: I have embedded the video into the new page using valid XHTML code without any fiddling & CSS tricksing. That means that the embedded video won’t be displayed in all browsers though. I would be very happy to hear about the cases where it does / doesn’t work – please write a comment (if you have been a lurker until today: you can write a comment by clicking on the ‘x notes’ link below) and tell me about it. In case the embedded stuff does not work, one can just download the .mp4 file and then play it. I would like to hear about the minimum requirements for playing this, too (for example, I have no idea what version of Windows Media Player is required for playing this file).

Internet Explorer 7 in the wild.

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

pie diagram showing browser shares for visits of this site. Firefox: 19%, Internet Explorer 7: 1%, 6 54%, 5 2%, Konqueror: 3%, Mozilla: 13%, Netscape 7: 2%, 3: 1%, Opera 6: 2%, 0: 2%, Safari: 3%Well, well, seems the future has begun. Hopefully, it will really be a future that is more standards compliant and privacy friendly. Today, I noticed my first visitor using Internet Explorer 7. Makes me wonder, how long it will take to reduce the share of version 6 to the current level of version 5…
The referrer said that the Internet Explorer 7 user was googling for Emma Watson (a.k.a. Baby Spice) pictures.

Printing pleasure.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

While I was on vacation in France this summer I printed Wikipedia content for the first time. And boy was I pleasantly surprised. The print had a different layout than the website. It was perfectly suited to reading on a piece of paper, had the aduquate kind of information and ditched web-specific layout aspects. Very nice and all that without having to click on some kind of go here to see the printer friendly version link.

Of course, I wanted to implement this for my website too. Behind the scenes, this is based on good CSS code, which offers hooks to change layout and other features of your content according to the media that is used to access the content on your page (i.e. screens, printed paper, sound, braille thingies for blind people, mobile phones etc.). I knew about this almost since my first dabblings in CSS, but I never collected enough guts to actually write the code for my site.
This changed today – because I was procrastrinating, trying to evade working on a paper that I have to finish very soon, and because of mentioning this feature of CSS to Tini a few days ago, I wanted to see how hard it is to implement. Thanks to SELFHTML and a bit of browsing I was able to hack the changes that are necessary to have a separate print version of my diploma thesis in about four hours – even though the thesis consists of about fourteen separate pages, includes lots of different links, pictures, edits and so forth. Quite a bit less time than I would have feared, I have to admit. I will let this settle for a bit and then implement the same changes for my other pages, which should not take more than an hour – the blog is still waiting for a general code overhaul anyway, during which I will include a print style sheet.
One thing did not work as intended though: the @page part of the CSS 2 specification is not fully implemented by the different modern browsers (we’re not talking Internet Explorer here anyway), therefore the page margins will be different and not always perfect when printing with different browsers. However, I don’t care about this much at this point of time – hopefully these printing features will be implemented sooner rather than later. Here, you can help: vote for the relevant Mozilla bugs 115199 and 286443 in bugzilla!

Organizing, tagging, and analyzing video clips on the Mac.

Saturday, September 17th, 2005

After finishing the introductory chapter of my dissertation I am now diving into the video and photographic data which I collected in the course of the last two years. Not an easy thing. Photos are not a problem. (I am fully satisfied with GraphicConverter’s abilities and make extensive use of IPTC entries to add keywords to my image files, which then get indexed by Apple’s Spotlight search.) However, tagging movie clips in a way that allows for convenient search and analysis is much more difficult. I decided to use iDive by Aquafadas software since it got some really good reviews and seemed to be nicely integrated to Mac OS X technologies (Spotlight again). It was a good choice! Although I am not able to tag arbitrary stretches of clips (overlapping would be best), I can split my clips into multiple parts and can tag those. This is not what makes me really happy about choosing iDive though – the really good aspect, as with all software, is the developer. I sent him feedback (bug reports and feature and enhancement requests). I got an answer only a few hours later. And: he is planning to implement almost all the things that I asked for. Most excellent! Superb! I am looking forward to work with a program that will slowly grow into the tool that I really need. Hail small, responsive developers!

Röchelruf und Münchnerbierherz.

Friday, September 9th, 2005

Worte wie diese sind die Freuden des Alltags auch wenn man fern der Heimat sitzt und den größten Teil des Tages auf den Bildschirm starrt. Und das obwohl hier in Kopenhagen glänzendes Wetter ist und es an Verlockungen für andere Tätigkeiten nicht mangelt…
Ansonsten habe ich erfreulicherweise heute das erste richtige Kapitel meiner Dissertation fertig stellen können (die Einbettungen) – die Öffnungszeiten in der Kongeligen Bibliotek erlauben auch Spätstartern wie mir noch einen produktiven Arbeitstag. Internet gibts da auch, allerdings nur über Port 80, so dass ich keinen Zugriff auf den Server der Zedat habe. Abends ist meine Bildschirmkondition dann so schlapp, dass ich es kaum auf die Reihe bekomme, noch einen Eintrag ins Blog zu befördern. Vielleicht hilft Routine vor Ort – zwei Wochen bin ich ja noch hier. Mal schauen, wie weit ich meinen arg ins Hintertreffen geratenen Zeitplan wieder einholgen kann…

Blog available again.

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

To those of you who wondered what had happened: the zedat people performed a system update which oviously caused some kind of havoc on the generation of cgi scripts. Daniel notified me that the blog hasn’t been available since sometime yesterday. :O I notified zedat’s web admin and in the course of less than an hour the problem was fixed. That’s a good response time, I’d say. Thanks Daniel, thanks Phillip.

Alles neu, alles schneller & wohl auch billiger.

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

Kompliment – die Umstellung auf Alice als Telefon und DSL ging denkbar einfach und unkompliziert von statten:
Am 9. August Auftrag per Web erteilt, Anschlusskennung des Werbers (danke, Andi & Tini) angegeben, am 11. August Schreiben von Alice mit Anschlusskennung und weiteren Daten bekommen (in dem eine Anschlusslegung für Mitte September angekündigt wurde). Am 15. August DSL-Modem, Splitter und Kabel bekommen, dazu ein Schreiben von Alice in dem die Anschlussumstellung für den 23. August angekündigt wird, ungefähr gleichzeitig eine Kündigungsbestätigung von der T-Com bekommen, in dem eine Kündigung zum tatsächlichen Umschaltzeitpunkt angekündigt wurde. Heute aufgestanden, Rechner hochgefahren, keinen Internetzugang gehabt, Splitter und DSL-Modem ausgetauscht, Zugangskennung im Router eingetragen und *vrooooooom* mit einer Dauer-Downloadgeschwindigkeit von ca. 228 Kilobyte pro Sekunde Daten auf den Rechner befördert. Yeah. So solls sein.
Nu sollte ich allerdings lieber via Skype in Norwegen anrufen: 4,49 cent pro Minute ist nämlich der Alice Tarif für ein Gespräch nach Norwegen.

Making Mozilla.

Friday, August 12th, 2005

Yesterday, I made my first direct contribution to the Mozilla Project, the organization that programs and distributes my favorite browsers, Camino for Mac OS X, and Firefox for most other platforms (AOL‘s Netscape is also built upon the Mozilla sourcecode). I would have liked to contribute to this great open source project earlier, however, a lack of resources and programming skills made this difficult. Therefore I have so far only contributed by posting in related forums, voting for bugs that bugged my in particular, and generally spreading the word. Yesterday however, I was again annoyed by one of the quirks that sometimes make you frustrated – in this case is was the non-standard way of Camino’s bookmark export function. A vote for fixing this seemed to be in order. To my surprise several searches in the Mozilla’s bug database bugzilla (yes, I know) turned out nothing. After some gnawing of fingernails I decided to take the plunge and write my first bug report. It is Bug 304118 – improve export of menu spacer / bookmark separator. I was crossing my fingers hoping not be told that this is an old hat, see bug number blablbabla. Seems my fears were unjustified: the bug was acknowledged (thanks Jasper!) and, to my utter astonishment, a fix has already been submitted!
I guess that’s a birthday present ;)

Wear & tear and the mending of my trusty Pismo.

Saturday, August 6th, 2005

Whew. I had to sigh several sighs of relief after Andi and I finally attached my Powerbook to the local stereo setup and successfully listened through the track Ortungstest by the German hip-hop band Fettes Brot. What happened that would cause such a joint effort in advanced breathing techniques? In the course of the last weeks the audio outlet on the back of my laptop began to show signs of a wackelkontakt. Rough rides in our car through the french countryside finally caused the wackelkontakt to morph into a full blown audio desaster: we weren’t able to listen to my music files anymore, therefore having to submit to french advertisement jingle harassment hammered through the diverse radio stations. Luckily Andi knows his way with a soldering iron much better than I do… After getting a soldering iron in Limoux’s M. Bricolage, buying a size 9 torx and a size 0 philipps screwdriver we embarked on to the repair of my Pismo’s audio outlet. And I have to tell you, it was a long journey. We had to disassemble the whole laptop to be able to get at the audio outlet. Lots of different sensible parts to be pryed out of their locations and tons of screws to manage. The audio outlet is covered by a metal shield which Andi had to solder off and on again with equipment that wasn’t really up to the task. Which is why he accidentally melted the plastic casings of some close by stuff to our shared dismay. However, some knife-scrapings and needle-piercings later the plastic was back into some sort of probably working shape. The actual repair of the audio outlet was almost trivial: two solderins points had been broken loose and were easily reattached and reinforced with a generous measure of soldering stuff. After putting the pieces together again the PowerBook did not boot up, not even making a sound after pressing the power button. Some more serious pressing of plugs and contacts was required (*cough* the processor board wasn’t firmly put into its seat *cough*) and finally the good old workhorse was booting again. Lo and behear: audio was working again, Andi is my personal hero of the week and I am really relieved that I can keep the laptop that I have grown quite fond of over the course of the last years… If you have any questions regarding surgery and patient, feel free to contact me – I did not have the nerve to take pictures, but I have a pretty vived recollection of the events and protagonists.