January 31, 2010

Another online presence - Twitter

A few days ago I've still been undecisive about Twitter and today you can already find my Twitter feed online at http://twitter.com/kosi2801.

Setup was easy and fast (of course) and the first tweet has been online in a matter of minutes. What took a bit longer was to sieve out the initial list of other people to follow. There's a massive amount of stuff which is interesting to me but many of those also have a tweet-frequency which is much to high for me or contain too much of the trivia-tweets that I've mentioned in my previous post. And I want to keep my Twitter-list at a reasonable size that I don't have to spend too much time with catching up all the tweets. The decision for each feed is not easy, does it add enough information-value for me to add their tweets to my list or does it add more noise?

For now I've settled on feeds that only add a handfull of tweets each day so I can scan over all the news in a few moments and process the linked articles (if any) also quickly. But I also know that this will take some tweaking and accustoming from my side to find out the right balance between interest and value for me.

Since I'm on Twitter now only for a short time I also have to find out how I should set up my tweet-frequency and the content in each. Currently I think it's mostly exactly the trivia I'm trying to stay away in other feeds but I hope that I will level out somewhere that other readers also get some information out of it for themselves.

Futhermore I've decided for now that I'll keep my feed in German, as this is much easier for me to tweet when I'm posting from mobile and don't have an English dictionary at my fingertips (which I use too often even for my own taste). But nevertheless I will respond to tweets and messages in any language I can understand :)

Maybe over time I'll also connect this blog and SIMsalabim to my Twitter feed as it provides a very quick contact possibility for feedback and questions. But I don't know yet if this will happen sooner or later...

January 28, 2010

Why to keep teams at a small size

Just yesterday I read the article from Joel Spolsky about A Little Less Conversation. Despite it being an article from the future, Feb. 1st, it reminded me a lot of the experiences I've collected in our company myself.

In short, Joel repeats once more the sadly not-common-knowledge that the more people are on a team the slower and less effective it gets. "Adding people to a late project makes it later!". He explains this counterintuitively effect, that the number communication paths does not grow in a linear way with the number of team members. Instead it grows much faster so that on a team with 10 people you already have 45 different paths of communication which have to be managed and synchronized. And if everyone on the team has to kept up-to-date with the information-flow the overhead for managing this information (even if just sorting into relevant/irrelevant) can quickly reach nontrivial amounts.

There are two ways to soften this problem. The one with the bigger impact is to keep your teams below a certain size. In our company the experience seems to come up that our Scrum teams work best if they do not exceed eight people. If with or without Scrum Master depends on the team. The second measure which can be taken is, that not everyone is invited or updated with information which is unrelevant for his or her position. Even more so if there is no influence possible for these people. But people also have to understand that it's not out of personal dislike or conflicts that they aren't kept up-to-date with everything on the company but that this lowered information-level allows them to concentrate more on their actual stuff which they are working on and removes a lot of unnecessary interruptions.

January 25, 2010

To twitter or not to twitter...

For quite a while now I'm having an eye on Twitter. In the beginning I soon stopped to check it regularly because most of the messages just were meaningful in a context unknown to the reader and weren't even useful as short amusement or something. Nevertheless from time to time I still looked into it especially when there were links from other blogs or news articles centering around it and its technology.

Meanwhile, while there are still lots of those low-value tweets around, some effective real-world uses have emerged. Ranging from instant news (even directly from the NASA Astronauts) to direct product support channels and even political content there are nowadays a lot of Twitter feeds which can affect a much larger audience than just personal messages. This is also represented in Twitters message question which now says "What's happening?" instead of "What are you doing?".

And because of this shift in focus and content I'm again rethinking my opinion of Twitter and really considering to join this social network. Which would also open an additional communication channel to the users who try out SIMsalabim.

But I still have to think about this a bit because currently I'm already drowning in all the news-sources I've set up on Google Reader, FeedReader and email, SMS, IM, etc. I'll already have to find some time in the future to re-check each and every feed and news-source I've listed and sift out the ones which I can really afford to spend my precious time on. And I guess with another source of instant distraction, like Twitter, this wouldn't get any easier...

January 24, 2010

Maths lecture by Prof. Rudolf Taschner

On Friday before my lectures started at the University I attended a guest-lecture of Prof. Rudolf Taschner at the [BG/BRG Kapfenberg[2]. The lecture was called "Rechnen mit Gott und der Welt" ("Calculating with God and the World"). The description in the invitation we received sounded quite interesting and because it was scheduled just before start of my real lectures I decided to join this lecture.

The content of the lecture was about how the mathematical basics have been invented and used by the stronger part of the cultures to keep suppressing the weaker ones, how it influenced the invention of writing and how it helped economics to develop.

The audience was mostly composed by 13 to 17 year old gymasiasts which in the beginning seemed to be not very happy with their presence at this lecture. But over time Prof. Taschner got their attention with really interesting explainations and funny interpretations and at the end of his lecture these gymnasiasts were applauding enthusiastically.

Never seen such young people been so excited about maths and history... If there were only more teachers able to explain their stuff like Prof. Taschner can.

January 22, 2010

First year on Stack Overflow

Almost exactly a year ago I joined the developers community on Stack Overflow. Shortly afterwards I posted my opinions on the Stack Overflow system. Today I'm still a relatively regular contributing member on the site and so far I've already earned a batch of badges and I'm approaching 3000 points, where I'll be able to vote on closure or reopening of questions.

Today I still think that the Stack Overflow system is a good one for giving and receiving immediate help on various topics. In my opinion the quality of the answers has improved over the time on common questions as did the response time which is often within the single-digit minute range. You have to have a very, very special problem to not receive a usable answer within a reasonable timeframe.

I'd still recommend this site for all software developers of all experience levels if they're stuck on a problem for a longer time. Most of the time there are people there which already have had the same problem and found a better solution long ago. Take advantage of others knowledge. I personally just enter the site from time to time and look at interesting questions where I already know the answer myself to check back if there are better solutions or different aproaches have worked for others. And just out of curiousity...

January 17, 2010

Stream urls of Austrias public radios

(For english version please scroll down a bit!)

German: Da ich schon öfter nach Urls gesucht habe, über die man die öffentlich-rechtlichen Radioprogramme Österreichs per Stream empfangen kann und nun endlich die Liste entdeckt habe (ua. hier), möchte ich euch diese natürlich nicht vorenthalten. Nachfolgend findet ihr alle (momentan) aktiven Shoutcast-Urls der Sender, sowie die direkten Stream-Urls, die zum Empfang nötig sind.

English: Because I've already been searching several times for the urls of the austrian publicly funded radio stations where you can receive the programs via streaming and I've finally found them now (among others here), I'd like to share them with you. Below you find the list of all (currently) active Shoutcast-urls of the radios as well as the direct stream-links which are required for receiving the streams.

StationShoutcastMP3WMA
Complete ORF webradio list--
Ö1 Liveradiohttp://mp3stream3.apasf.apa.at:8000VBR64kbps
Ö1 Campus / Radio 1476http://mp3stream4.apasf.apa.at:8000VBR64kbps
Ö1 Inforadiohttp://mp3stream6.apasf.apa.at:8000VBR48kbps
Hitradio Ö3http://mp3stream7.apasf.apa.at:8000VBR64kbps
FM4http://mp3stream1.apasf.apa.at:8000VBR64kbps
Radio Wienhttp://mp3stream2.apasf.apa.at:8000VBR48kbps
Radio NÖhttp://mp3stream8.apasf.apa.at:8000VBR64kbps
Radio OÖhttp://194.232.200.148:8000VBR-
Radio Salzburghttp://194.232.200.147:8000VBR-
Radio Burgenlandhttp://194.232.200.146:8000VBR48kbps
Radio Steiermarkhttp://mp3stream9.apasf.apa.at:8000-16kbps
Radio Kärntenhttp://194.232.200.145:8000VBR64kbps
Slovenski spored--64kbps
Radio Vorarlberghttp://194.232.200.149:8000VBR32kbps
Radio Tirolhttp://mp3stream10.apasf.apa.at:8000VBR20kbps

January 16, 2010

SIMsalabim

As already announced a bit more than a week ago, I've published one smaller project from the University on Google Code. Now I'm proudly presenting you...

SIMsalabim

SIMsalabim is an Android application which allows you to manage the contacts which are stored on the SIM card inside your phone. Google Android itself has so far only minor possibilities to work with SIM contacts, it's just possible to copy the contacts from the SIM card over to the phone contacts and that's it. SIMsalabim adds the missing management functionality to copy the contacts between these two lists and also remove contacts from the SIM card.

Currently the project is in a usable state (and a preview APK package is also available here) but only tested so far on my HTC Magic phone using Android 1.6. Furthermore error handling in extreme situations (like a full SIM card storage) is not yet perfect. But I think it's in a state where it should cause no unexpected effects on your phone.

Nevertheless: use it on your own risk. It still may cause all sorts of bad effects and even harm your contact information. Just to be on the safe side ;)

Some documentation and usage instructions are available in the wiki.

January 14, 2010

Chilling out...

From time to time there is just the need to calm down and chill out a bit. If I'm in the need of some cooling-off-minutes I often just fire up another tab on the browser and head to the video below. It's an ultra slow-motion footage of a Saturn V rocket launch underlaid with a very fitting soundtrack.

For me it is just impressive how much power is generated during this liftoff and what quantities of fuel are burned each second (15 tons each second). To get a size impression just have a look at this image where Dr. von Braun is standing in front of the five F-1 engines from the rocket.

If you'd like to have a technical commentary on a Saturn V launch then head over to this video (Update 2014-01-27 new link to Vimeo), otherwise lean back and relax with this one:


via videosift.com

January 12, 2010

Our next visit in the C realm

I've already ranted about one of our lectures of this semester the one or other time. Today it has been neccessary once again for our C programming lecture that we sat together and I tried to create a rough how-to-do-it-draft for our lecture. It's been different to the first exercise we had to tackle in the sense, that it was more C-technical than the last time and until today I hadn't worked on a Garbage Collector, which is this next exercise.

Well, I tried to work on the problem by working something out from the rough beginnings to the near-implementation details. What we didn't cover today was everything which came near to the real implementation in C. Apart from the easy parts, function calls and list-handling, I have quite a struggle with the details. I don't want to dig deeper here but I can assure you that implementing even a simplified garbage collector in C is nothing I would assign to students which just have learned the easy basics of this language more than two years ago.

Nevertheless, I hope I could help my fellow colleagues a bit and that they now understand our assignment a bit better than after the explainations of our lecturer.

Next time we'll have to dig into the dirty guts of C... Yeah? :(

January 7, 2010

Google code tryout

In my ongoing decision struggle where to host my project work I've now taken a little step forward and opened another project on Google code to try it out a bit more. Setup there has been relatively easy and fast and the SVN source code repository is also reacting well so far.

This smaller project is from another lecture on mobile computing and it will be an application for Android mobile phones. There is still some polishing for this going on as it is still not finished and yet to be rated for a grade by the end of this month. Nevertheless I think it's already in a usable state for experienced developers by now.

When this polishing is done and the application has also some more documentation and more error-handling, I'll post an introduction here. I guess it will be a nice addition to the Android software portfolio as there is not much comparable out there by now. But by it's nature it will only be useful for a smaller audience of Android users. More details on this soon...

January 5, 2010

Honesty is still out there

Today, while I've been shopping, I've been asked by a poor-looking teenager on a parking site if I had some spare coins to buy something to eat and drink. Usually I'm not reacting on such questions because most of the time these people spend the money on alcohol or other drugs. This time I gave him 2EUR. I don't know exactly why I did it this time, maybe because he clearly said how he wants to spend the money. Nevertheless, I gave it to him and entered the next supermarket, not thinking about it anymore.

Imagine my surprise, when he entered the supermarket just a few minutes after me and coincidental he queued just behind me at the cash desk. And he really bought a softdrink bottle and some sandwiches. And later back on the parking site he came up to me again and wanted to return the change.

Somehow gives me a warm feeling around my chest...

January 2, 2010

Happy New Year

So that's it. 2010. Feels somehow not very different compared to the last decade, only with more global worries. Maybe it's also because I'm now older and even more interested in the stuff going on globally than I've been ten years ago, but I cannot really tell. Hm, at least I'm still as busy with school as I've been ten years ago...

Nevertheless, I hope you have all arrived well in this new year, and I wish everyone only the best for the upcoming future.

Happy new Year :)