Posts about Computer

I had my first computer with 5 and started C programming when I was 13. Then I made some simple websites using PHP which grew into ever more complex ones. In 2007, I created some Java applications, some of them are still among the portfolio on this page. While I was an intern at the DLR, I started to learn Python and IDL, which introduced me to matrix based languages. For the numerical methods lecture and especially my bachelor’s thesis I used C++11. During my master’s thesis I have learned Haskell for fun. Later on for my PhD thesis I also learned R and the Wolfram Language.

This section of my site is for articles about programming practices and performance tests. Also various stuff about computer hardware and software.


Goodbye Google Photos

Google has this service called Photos where you can just upload photos and have a photo library. They arrange them by date, you can arrange them in albums and also search them. They did not charge anything for the storage and made it very easy to get more pictures online.

So whey didn't they charge for storage? They likely wanted to have all this data for image regonition training, and for neural network training you need huge amounts of data. By just offering free space for photos to all people, you are certain to get a bunch of picture. And so I also used the service to store my images. The Android app can also directly upload all new images, I took that as a nice photo backup especially on vacation. I started to upload more images, and eventually it turned into a great dump of pictures that were sent in chats.

Recently they have changed their policy, and in six month they will start charging for storage space. They likely now have enough images online such that they can do neural network training with it. This policy change has made me question my usage of the service. And I realized that I wasn't really using it. So I stopped the automatic upload of my data to the service and then wanted to go on and delete all images which are not linked associated with an album. In some of the travel posts I had included a Google Photos album to shore more pictures, and I wanted to keep that.

As there was no option for it on the website, I thought that the API would be a good start. It would be a Sunday afternoon Python project. I started to read the API documentation, downloaded an API key and eventually started looking for a Python library. While reading up on that, I found out that one cannot modify existing content via the API. This means that my whole idea was bust. Other people have requested this feature, but Google hasn't replied there.

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First hours of Cyberpunk 2077

Years ago I have been playing Witcher 3 (and then Witcher 1, Witcher 2) and really liked the game. I spent like 9 months playing it, there was just so much content to discover, and the main story seemed rather long. So when CD Projekt Red finally released their Cyberpunk 2077 game, I thought that I could just buy it without looking at any reviews, I just trust the game studio. And so I bought the game on GOG.

My computer is from 2016 and was a budget machine back then (AMD FX 8320, AMD R9 380). I can play the game on lowest settings in FullHD with 30 frame/s or more, so it is okay. I'm mostly in for the story anyway, And indeed, the story is well put, the city looks very impressive and has many layers to it. I like it very much!

The whole game feels a bit like Witcher 3: There are tons of side quests, you can just talk to people on the streets, there is quick travel and also a mount (though a car and not a horse). The inventory feels the same, there are multiple skill trees and a crafting system. You can consume food and drinks for certain attributes. There are different weapons, lots of clothing, and various bonuses that one can have with them.

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DSL-Wechsel kurz vor Umzug

Für einen DSL-Anschluss mit 50 MBit/s zahlt man bei den meisten Anbietern zwischen 30 und 40 EUR/Monat. Wenn man aber alle zwei Jahre den Anbieter wechselt, so ist man Neukunde und zahlt für DSL dann effektiv 19,82 EUR/Monat. Geht man ins Kabelnetz, so gibt es sogar Lockangebote für durchschnittlich 12,49 EUR/Monat. Der Wechsel bei bestehender Leitung ist ganz schmerzlos, man muss nur die neuen Zugangsdaten in den Router eintragen.

Mein DSL-Vertrag bei der Telekom lief am 30.09.2020 aus. Bis dahin habe ich im Durchschnitt knapp unter 20 EUR/Monat gezahlt. Danach wäre er automatisch um ein Jahr verlängert worden und würde dann 40 EUR/Monat kosten. Das ist natürlich viel teurer, als wenn ich einfach zum nächsten Anbieter gewechselt wäre.

Es gab nur einen Haken: Ich wollte in absehbarer Zeit mit meiner Freundin zusammenziehen. Aber wahrscheinlich erst kurz nach Vertragsende meines alten Vertrags. Und sie hat natürlich auch schon einen eigenen DSL-Vertrag. Ich wusste, dass es ein Sonderkündigungsgrund ist, wenn der alte Anbieter in der neuen Wohnung nicht liefern kann. Also wenn dort zum Beispiel kein VDSL oder Kabelfernsehen verfügbar ist. An der Check-24-Hotline hat man mir gesagt, dass eine Verwendung des Anschlusses durch einen bestehenden Vertrag jedoch kein Sonderkündigungsgrund ist. Also musste ich mir etwas neues einfallen lassen.

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USB-C stands for Chaos

When I was young, there was USB 1.1. It came in two different type of connectors, USB-A on the computer side and USB-B on the device side. The USB-A and USB-B look like this:

Figure based on a picture by GeroZ, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Eventually there was USB 2.0 coming out, it offered much more speed (480 Mbit/s) and was finally suitable for external hard drives. The power output was still very low, so one could not really power an external hard drive with it.

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From Toodledo to Todoist

For years I have been using Toodledo, a freemium task list application. It has a website and also an Android app. The main idea is that it is a table of tasks with lots of attributes that can be set.

One can then filter this list by Folder, Status, Context and Priority. And one can sort it by three of these keys. The first sorting key will yield those intermediate headers in the table. This way one can gather all the tasks corresponding to specific questions:

  • What can I do while I am waiting somewhere and just have my phone? Give me everything with Context »Phone«.
  • What has to be finished today? Sort by Due Date and take the top elements.
  • What have I already started and need to finish? Give me all tasks where the Status is »Next Action«.

In principle this is really nice, but I found that it does not suit me so well. I usually look at the full list of tasks and try to pick out the things that I could do next. But I come across the same things over and over again. And some depend on others, are not really actionable tasks yet, or can only be done next weekend. I tried to use the Status field to set tasks to either “Active” or “Planning” depending on whether I want to do them next or some time in the future.

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The Smart TV Experience

I've recently moved, and one of the items on the list has been a TV. I didn't want anything special, but these days you seem to only get Smart TVs in the entry price range. Additionally I was rather surprised that 4k resolution was the default now. Well, it will likely be interesting.

After browsing through the TVs available I've settled for a Samsung, namely the one with the catchy name of GU43TU8079. Somehow I had a dark humor feeling when I put it on the wish list. A decade ago I was putting a lot of emphasis on privacy. And then I saw that the world around me did not, the products were made for people who just did not care. Corporations tried to take more and more data. So with the TV, I expect it to be the Orwellian viewer that watches me while I do something on the TV. Also I expect some really crappy UI to be on the TV, something which is barely workable and cumbersome to use. There won't be the apps that I want, and the web browser will be sluggish to use. With such a low expectation bar regarding the software side, I was curious to see how bad it really was.

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Three Computers on One Desk

For my new job I got a company laptop, but given the current pandemic status I only work from home. I already use that desk for my personal laptop and tower PC, now I have integrated the third leptop. The sheer amount of connections between all these things is staggering. Out of curiosity I've made a graph of this:

Software Development in Scientific Research

I've worked in research for the past four years, during my master and PhD thesis. And although I did research in physics, my main day-to-day work has been developing software. The software projects were either the large-scale simulation code, some post-processing code or the analysis.

There is a discrepancy between what a researcher is gauged by, and the work which is needed to write good software. A good researcher produces physical results, publishes a bunch of papers which reek in a lot of citations. The only thing that one describes in the papers are the theoretical methods and the results. The details of the implementation are of no concern to the audience of the paper.

The people who work to obtain the results are very much interested in the implementation, as they have to work with the code on a daily basis. They also have to implement new features in order to produce the next physical results in the future. Usually the physical results somehow built upon previous results, making it a necessity to have maintainable and extensible code. And this is where the trouble begins.

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Cam Scanner Apps

I usually scan all my documents with a flatbed scanner that I have at home. It also has an automatic document feeder, which is a blessing for long documents. Sometimes I want to scan something on the go. Usually I just take pictures with the camera app, but as there are many apps out there, I wanted to see whether I could find something good.

As a benchmark, this is the result that I get from the flatbed scanner and adjusting the levels with GIMP:

There are no shades, no wrinkles. It looks reasonable. This is a hard example as it is thermographic paper and crumpled in my wallet. But still, why not take a challenging example? By the way, without software post-processing, the result looks rather bad:

So how does my phone compare to that?

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Tracking Places I Have Been

I like to track the places that I have been to. Some people have a scratch world map, others write a list, or draw onto a map. For me I realized that the granularity of a world map is not enough, I want to have a digital map. So for a while I have been using the Viking application for this.

There I can just create layers and enter the points as I see fit. It works rather nice, but it became rather slow lately. Additionally I cannot take this with me on the phone. On the go I can add places in OsmAnd and later export them and import them into Viking. All this is okay, but I wanted to see what Google offers there.

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