Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Looking back, looking ahead.

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Dragon- and Jackfruit, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, chocolate, palm sugar and tahoe from JavaThis year’s general assembly of KDE e.V. during Akademy will be my last one as a member of the KDE e.V.‘s Board of Directors. I had been elected during Akademy 2006 in Dublin, and since then served the KDE community by working on organisational bits necessary to support a Free Software project. We’ve seen times where our environment wildly changed, times of growth, consolidation, growing pains. Looking back fills me with satisfaction how we have developed KDE e.V. as an organisation. I think KDE e.V. is exemplary in many ways for other Free Software, and Free Culture projects. One of the cornerstones here is continuity, we simply had the time to learn a lot, to define and implement necessary processes around administration, fund-raising, legal questions, conference organisation and many more. As it stands today, KDE e.V. is an organisation that provides the continuity necessary for a community to think ahead, and the necessary infrastructure to foster and support those next steps. KDE e.V. is also an organisation that constantly evolves, reacting, but also foreseeing and preparing for the next steps. We have a well-functioning team in place to guide this, and I’m confident that the current and coming board members will keep developing KDE e.V. as an organisation towards its goal of supporting KDE.

The Merapi volcano, as seen from the BorobodurEarlier this year, I had also resigned from my role as one of KDE’s release managers. When I joined the release time, around KDE 3.5 (our software compilation was still called KDE back then), our release process was becoming dysfunctional. In KDE 3 times, coolo (to some known as Stephan Kulow) was the release dude, and it was all in his hands. He did a great job, but, just like in many other areas of KDE, embodied a single point of failure. Not that he, or others we relied on, ever failed, but it’s usually more a matter of statistics than personal skills, attitude and motivation. For critical tasks (and actually releasing all the work of such a community for others to use is a pretty critical one!), you want a team in place that can fall back on each other, both to spread workload and risks. Afin, KDE needed release managers, and after a detour through a more official body (the KDE e.V.-elected Technical Working Group, for those who remember this episode), it became clear that only a self-motivated group of people that want to get the job done will work. In hindsight, this sounds completely natural and closely aligned to KDE’s way of achieving things, but I think this way had to be walked, we have learned from it, and in the end, there’s a competent team in place which can deliver our software in time and quality. As being on the release team is work, and at times quite a lot, I wanted to get rid of this eventually. I managed to pull out, I think without leaving too much of a hole. A few releases have been done without me actively particating. Probably, most people won’t even have noticed. Perfect.

So am I on the way out? Most certainly not! I’ve been consistently shifting from organisational tasks to more technically oriented work, which to me personally, is a good development. I simply get more kicks out of writing code than reading emails. In that regard, I think I’m in good company.

The sun rising over BaliOn a professional level, I’ve been working for Blue Systems on Plasma’s upcoming version for a while now. I’m spending most of my time on Plasma and our Frameworks 5 effort, and enjoy that a lot. It gives me both the time to intimately understand more parts of our codebase, and much opportunity to learn new things and improve and develop existing skills. The work happens entirely within KDE infrastructure and community, and I’ve got a bunch of great colleagues who are equally eager to take big steps, technologically with our codebase. My role has now shifted a bit to also include team coordination tasks, which is an interesting exercise. On the one hand, a geographically spread team is harder to keep track of, but this is offset by the great motivation, skills and attitude of my colleagues (within both Blue Systems and KDE).

Incense in a buddhistic templeLuckily, my life’s not all KDE and the serious business of software development. In May, Kim and me travelled to Indonesia. We spent a few nights in the jungle of Borneo, took a walk with Orang Utans. We planted trees, and slept the nights on the deck of our boat acompanied by jungle noises and clear skies. On Java, we visited the Borobodur, a giant buddhistic temple, one of the 7 wonders of the world, we learnt about the roots (literally and figuratively) of many conveniences such as coffee, rice, tobacco and latex. We climbed up a Volcano. From Java, we set off to Bali, travelled along its North coast and then spent some time on Gili Trawangan, which is part of a group of sandy, tropical islands just off the coast of Lombok. The time in Bali and on the Gilis did my scuba diving skills really well. The area is excellent for diving with warm waters and amazing marine life. My finning technique has improved vastly and I’ve got dehydration under control much better now. During our dives we spotted lots of coral, soft and hard, vast amounts of colourful reef fish, turtles, reef sharks, morays, sea snakes. The abundance of colour and life was enchanting, though fragile.

With all that said, some of you will meet me later this week in Bilbao for Akademy. I will arrive on Wednesday already, going to see Depeche Mode and The Editors at BKK festival. If you want to talk Frameworks5, Plasma2 or anything else which lies in my line of interest: Talk to me.

Inspirations from FOSS.in 2012

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

a young visitor to HampiI’ve attended FOSS.in in Bangalore two weeks ago. FOSS.in is the largest Indian Free software conference, and has been on my list of conferences to ever attend for a long time. I’m back home for a good week now, so it’s time to recap a bit my experiences there. I travelled together with Lydia, a.k.a. Nightrose, who was attending on behalf of Wikimedia to tell about Wikidata. For the conference, I was scheduled for a talk about Plasma Active, and we also did a workshop on creating device-adaptive interfaces. More on that later.

Lydia and I went a few days earlier, to have some time to see Bangalore and surroundings. It was my first time in India, so also a good opportunity to see a few new things here and there, and to acclimatize. On the first day, we went around the city a bit, and later were invited to PES-IT, a renowned Indian IT college, where a 24hour open source hackathon would take place. Lydia and I held ad-hoc presentations about getting involved with KDE and Plasma Active respectively, followed by hands-on demos and discussions about both technical and non-technical issues. The students and professors were very friendly, and it was awesome to see enthusiastic students spending their weekend together hacking. We only arrived late at night back at our hotel, after some long and enlightening discussions about Free software and Indian culture. What struck me in particular (and in a very positive way) was the number of girls attending, about one third. In most “Western” countries, information technology is very much a male trade, Dutch universities for example struggle to attract more than one or maybe two girls each year for their computer science courses. India is way ahead there, which on the one hand is great to see, but on the other hand raises the question what is going wrong in my home country. Free software communities suffer from the same skewed demographic, so the same question applies here.

Hampi

Jean-Baptiste (j-b) of VLC arrived two days after us, and we all hopped on a nightbus to Hampi, a UNESCO heritage site, an old capital of a long-gone empire and religious centre a few hours North-West of Bangalore. There, we spent an unforgettable day, from watching (and participating) in the morning ritual of washing your body in the river, sipping a glass of chai, having a wonderful breakfast under the Mango Tree, watching temples in a beautiful surrounding, more wonderful curries, chais, temples and friendly people to enjoying the sunset from the top of a mountain.

Aakash

On Thursday, FOSS.in started. One of the booths that struck me first was the stand of Aakash, which is a low-cost tablet meant for students. The tablet is procured by the Indian government under the supervision of the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay (IIT-Bombay). It is running a dualboot Linux/Android system right now. The Aakash people have already looked into Plasma Active (they prefer it much to Android, but there were some problems getting it to run on their hardware. The hardware is a 7″ tablet with a a capacitive screen, 512MB RAM and otherwise an Allwinner A13 chip with Mali400 GPU. That should just be powerful to enough to run Plasma Active. I got demoed a few applications, both under Android and Linux which quickly revealed why Android was not the best choice: Android basically made a lot of apps run 3 times slower. In the course of the next days, I sat down with IIT’s developers to look into problems they had with getting PA to run. We made some progress, and fleshed out strategies how to get it to run. One bigger hurdle is the lack of a good graphics driver, other tasks involve “relatively simple” system integration tasks. Doable, it seems, and a wonderful opportunity to bring KDE’s software to a very large new group of users.One thing that struck me as genius in this project is that it is not limited to procuring hardware and getting it to boot, but a large part (60+% of the budget) is allocated to content creation. Software is created under the GPL, content under Creative Commons, non-commercial licenses. Translation of content is an integral part of the project, so this initial Freeing of educational content has the potential of being very useful far outside of India as well. Visionary.
As with any big project, there are also critical voices. Hardware is one issue, building a relationship of trust with Chinese manufacturers is not easy, as is getting the manufacturer to understand the constraints and requirements of Free software. I wish the Aakash project all the success it needs however, and we will continue to support the goals of the project. This could be the beginning of a wonderful thing. :)

Plasma Active Presentation and Workshop

Holy cows feeding on trashOn the first day, I held a presentation about Plasma Active, its approach, technology, goals and so on. The talk took place in the main hall and was well attended. I collected some valuable feedback, and am happy that people understand the ideas and believe them to be right. The next day, we held a KDE miniconf, where Shantanu and me did a workshop on developing device-adaptive apps. In the workshop, we outlined the process from idea to running code on a device, and dug into details. We had about 50 interested visitors, the workshop itself was quite interactive, and we did some live-coding, it was a lot of fun to do.

conf.kde.in 2013?

During the conference it became evident, that the Indian KDE and Free software community would very much like to organize an Indian KDE conference again. After conf.kde.in 2011, which was a great success, this seemed like a good idea, so we did some planning on that, asked if people were willing to volunteer in the organization and outlined a few possible options. The discussion has moved on to the kde-india mailinglist, so if you are among the people who would love to see conf.kde.in 2013 happen, join the list and add your ideas and man/girlpower!

The Internet of Things

One of the presentations I attended during FOSS.in was by Priya Kuber, who works for Arduino. Arduino produces a open source hardware microcontroller aimed at educational purposes. The talk was very inspiring, so I wondered if I could use this for some home automation tasks, as simple example a remote power switch to turn on my workstation in the office, or somesuch. Priya sat down with me and quickly got me going with my own basic programme for the Arduino microcontroller, and it was all very easy and fun. Back home I ordered an Arduino starter kit, which has already arrived and contains basically what I’d call a kid’s microcontroller wet dream, it has the Arduino Uno board, LEDs, sensors for light, temperature, an LCD display and a bunch of other small electronic components along with a nice book. Surely something to spend the calmer Christmas days with, old style. :)
Still in India, I sat down for an afternoon and hacked up some code to use with this little project, and got already quite far. The idea is to connect the Arduino to my RaspberryPi (which is energy-efficient enough to run 24/7), run a small http server on the RPi and use that to remote control physical devices at home from a remote location (I’d like to think of a tropical island here ;)). I’ve implemented the server in twisted Python, it presents a JSON interface, which can be directly consumed from a QML Plasmoid, on either my laptop or any Plasma Active device. I didn’t get around to doing the actually interesting hardware part, yet. Maybe this is the feable start of using KDE technologies for home automation and domotica?

I would like to thank the KDE e.V., the foundation for the KDE community, for supporting my trip. You can also pitch in here, to make participation of KDE contributors in this kind of events possible by Joining the Game.

Back in Brazil

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

I got up rather early this morning to catch a flight from Amsterdam across the ocean (and equator) down to Brazil, where on Wednesday FISL (Forum Internacional Software Libre) will start. Right now, I’m temporarily stranded in a bar at Sao Paulo airport, waiting for my connecting flight to Porto Alegre where FISL will take place.

Already a few years back, I heard that FISL is one of the pearls among international Free software events, and this year, fate (impersonated by the FISL organizers) invited me to speak at FISL, a wonderful opportunity. Doing bit of research, FISL is an order of magnitude bigger than European events, which due to geographical proximity are a bit more often on my agenda, so I’m quite excited to celebrate this Planet’s biggest community-driven Free software event, and I’m honoured that I will get the opportunity to present our ideas, work and progress on Freeing the Device spectrum to the audience (mark down “Friday, 27th, 11.00h, auditorium” in your agendas!).

Brazil has a special place in my heart, I’ve been working together for a few years with many awesome Brazilian hackers and contributors, I’ve had the opportunity to visit this huge country earlier (when I keynoted at OpenBossa conference in 2009 in Recife) which I’ve fond memories of. I’m glad I’m back now. (Although it’s not quite so real yet, airports are quite the same everywhere.) I’ll arrive at my hotel in Porto Alegre quite late tonight, will hopefully get a good night of sleep to counter the jetlag, and a day tomorrow to acclimatize and possibly visit the city.

On Wednesday, Daker Pinheiro and me will be running a workshop about developing apps for the device spectrum using KDE technologies. For this workshop, no prior knowledge of Qt or KDE technologies will be required, we hope to be able to get you going with the basic steps and concepts during that workshop, so that attendees get a kickstart and can continue this fun adventure when they’re back home, supported by our many online support channels (docs, email, IRC, wiki, read-the-source-luke, etc…)

The weather back home in the Netherlands has been mostly aweful, quite a crap summer indeed. Let’s see if Southern Brazilian winter beats this year’s Dutch summer…

Submerged on Koh Tao

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

image

image

image

Dived Japanese Garden and White Rock yesterday, after refreshing my Scuba diving skills. I’m doing that at New Heaven Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand, a smallness diving operation who do a lot of work in marine life conservancy. I really dig their regular reef cleanup efforts, and their mission to turn more diving schools into marine life conservancy agents. In the process of experiencing the fantastic underwater world, it gives a lot of background to environmental (and underlying socio-economical) problems.

Among yesterday’s highlights were a blue-spotted stingray, porcupine fish, trigger fish, various scorpionfish and thousands of other cute and sometimes curious sea creatures.

I’ve also started using my underwater camera with so far very promising results. I need to work a bit on handling of the cam, but over the course of today’s photos, I am quite thrilled of the results after about just one hour of diving with it. As I didn’t bring my laptop or tablet, uploading those will have to wait until I’m back home in early March — until then some impressions from my phone camera will have to suffice.

Tokamak 5 Photo Blog

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Tokamak 5 has ended, the house is mostly clean and proper again, so time to post some photographic evidence of what has been an epic sprint.

Tulips, typical for the Netherlands. Not all of them made the end of the sprint.

Tulips, typical for the Netherlands. Not all of them made the end of the sprint.

Artur, looking into QtWebkit performance on Plasma Active

Artur, looking into QtWebkit performance on Plasma Active.

Dario and Ivan

BBQ, yes, that's a Brazilian taking care of the veggie grill.

BBQ, yes, that’s a Brazilian taking care of the veggie grill. (The tricolore shirt is for easier Visa procedures.)

Kevin, API bitch and Kanban master.

Kevin, API bitch (his words) and Kanban master.

Daily stand-up to catch up with other's activities.

Daily stand-up meeting to catch up with others’ activities.

No comment. (XKCD reference welcome.)

No comment. (XKCD reference welcome.)

We know what to do with ... pancakes.

We know what to do with … pancakes. (Don’t worry, Aaron and the pancake had a wonderful rest of the evening. Pancakes were kindly made by Adriaan.)

Groupphoto. Taken one day after Dario and Ruphy left, so we don't look like an Italian-only team.

Groupphoto. Taken one day after Dario and Ruphy had to leave, so we don’t look like an Italian-only team. Also clearly a Thursday.

Primary means of transportation. Looks more stupid in wide-angle.

Primary means of transportation. Looks more stupid in wide-angle.

OranjePop, one of the concerts.

OranjePop, one of the concerts. Verdict: Can’t really sing, but surely fun music to listen and watch.

we are out of househacking & KDE e.V. Board Meeting in Nijmegen

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

I’ve just returned from our local microbrewery, Brouwerij de Hemel in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the place where I live after a nice dinner with my fellow KDE e.V. Board Member members. Friday and Saturday we had planned to hold a two+ day board meeting here in Nijmegen. Kim and me have moved into our new house in Nijmegen two weeks ago and we’re now mostly settled, meaning all critical parts of infrastructure work and are in place, and we can pick up our lives again, after two months of updating, maintaining and facelifting it from the inside. We’re now fully settled. We’ve moved inside Nijmegen from a rather nice flat into a larger house. We got the keys to the new house two months ago, and have spent this year’s september and october on painting, wallpapering, insulating and other facelift and maintainance work. Luckily, many of our friends and families came by to help us here and there. The whole process went pretty well overall, and we stayed inside our budget aswell with a result that’s really a nice improvement in terms of quality of life at home. Part of the renovation work in the new house was upgrading the attic, which was mostly used as storage space to a modern relaxed working environment. As I work from home, effectively I’ve moved office and home at the same time. The attic is now nothing short of a humongous home office, housing my large corner-desk with the dual-screen workstation I use for daily work at home, a sofa, "relatively neatly" organized cables (we all hate this mess, don’t we?!), a cool new TV with internet and UPnP snazziness, hifi system hooked up to computer and TV, a nice couch, air-conditioning, large windows, WII, etc. The roof got a 8cm insulation layer as well, so the house is much less of a climate waster now that we applied some TLC (blood, sweat, no tears) to it. One the one hand I feel like the small boy again being all happy and impressed by all the new toys, but on the other hand I’m already experiencing in my first two weeks of work in the new office that it’s exactly what tickles me to be productive and relaxed at the same time – I love it when a plan comes together.

One of the factors I’ve considered for the new office is the lighting. I’ve chosen three differently placed sources of light: 4 built-in spots above the desk, three spots under the rooltop, and two small diffuse table lamps in the lower corners. They’re separately dimmable using a small remote control, so it’s easy to adjust the lighting in the room conveniently from either desk, or couch. I’ve used halogen lamps for all lamps, after playing around with different options. There are energy-saving lamps, even the supposedly dimmable ones don’t work really well when combined in different settings. I’ve tried three different products from different vendors, and they were all not working well, meaning flickering, inconsistent switching, delays in lighting up. Even the more expensive ones (supposedly dimmable) are basically unreliable and annoying. In our bed room, I’ve installed LED lamps in a 3-spot lamp. The first set of LED lamps I’ve tried for it worked well (no dimmer involved), but the light was abit on the "cold" side. It looked a bit too slick for a bed room. I’ve replaced the lamps with similar lamps in 2700Kelvin (the ‘colder’ ones were 3000Kelvin) and the light is certainly comparable to Halogen light. The downside here is that the lamps are really expensive (~40€ a piece). They’re supposedly dimmable, but I haven’t tried that yet. The halogen light that I ended up installing in most places (either as lightbulb with inner halogen lamp, or as spots) gives the perfect, most stable and well-toned light, and dimms perfectly with very low thresholds on the dark side and really bright light when turned up. Halogen lamps are comparably inexpensive, but they not exactly energy-effective (only save about 30% compared to traditional lightbulbs, whereas you can easily save 70% by using LED lamps. The trade-off will likely go towards LED lighting in the near future, as the technology matures, R&D costs are being earnt back and economies of scale make LED lamps more affordable.

In the preliminary end (last monday-ish) the house was ready for its quite unusual inception and first stress-test: KDE e.V.’s fall board meeting.

KDE e.V. Board Meeting

Celeste Lyn Paul arrived on Thursday morning from Washington DC, Adriaan de Groot (fellow Nijmegenaar and e.V. vice president, Frank Karlitschek and Claudia Rauch, KDE e.V.’s business manager attended respectively spoke at the Netherland’s UNIX User Group’s semi-annually conference. After letting Celeste in and quickly showing her where she can find what she needs (quite easy: shower, place to take a nap, possibly food / coffee, etc.) I headed out to a meeting at the NLUUG conference in Ede where we looked into funding opportunities for KDE developers. Interesting stuff, of which I hope we can materialize some in the coming months. After getting back to Nijmegen, Celeste and me picked up Cornelius who arrived at the train station, and we went for dinner in the oldest bar in Nijmegen, De Blaauwe Hand. Tapas-style food and some bok beer really kicked off the board meeting. The weather solidly sucked with rain and wind, which is very expectable on the one hand and provides big grins on the other hand when explaining that trains are delayed because the wet rails are slippery (seriously, wtf).

The next morning, after a rather "warm" welcome the night before, we started planning the meeting. Usually, we prepare the agenda before the meeting, this time we decided to be a bit flexible there and decide about the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. I don’t think it made a big difference in the end, so in the future I’d probably lean towards prep’ing the agenda before the meeting on the mailing list, to save some valuable face-time for less administrative tasks. The board meeting was otherwise pretty productive. It struck me that the load of administrivia to deal with was rather bearable, which reflects well on the work we’ve done over the past years consolidating our operations. "Consolidating our operations" of course means "Claudia and her team in the Berlin office (currently Agata and Jenny, previously Torsten) take board member’s headache away. :-)

The fact that the KDE e.V. is a well-working, stable and effective organisation is quite convenient as it allows us to be more out-going, and more "enabling" as an organisation. While we have increased our investments in things like developer sprints, Akademy, travel support for KDE developers, promotion and many other organisational things, we have also been able to increase the income alongside: both sides of the balance are in healthy ratio. As we’ve planned quite conservatively financially over the past year, we even have some financial space to tackle bigger ideas. One idea of Cornelius I really liked, but it’s just too awesome to share at this pristine point, so I’d rather disappoint my readers here. Stay tuned, anyway. :P

I’m really proud to have contributed in this rather special way, by hosting my fellow board members here. We’ve had lots of good meeting hours, but also some very valuable face-time. Kim was rather helpful in the background, so that’s where the credit for the host should really go. So much for Nijmegen. Tomorrow, Frank and I will be doing some hacking here, and then flying off to Dublin for the MeeGo conference. In short: after having taken some more time for personal stuff, I’m back in full swing. Arrrrr.

Moving.

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Just a quick shout-out, K, me and the pets (and computers) are moving into the new house now, which means I’ll be hard to reach over the next couple of days. I should be fully moved into my new home office on Monday. Progress can be monitored here.

See you on the flip side. :-)

Plasma Photo Collage

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

ide Collage of random photos from my collectionToday while going through some parts of my photo collection, I’ve created a collage of some photos. It was actually more or less accidental since I was choosing photos to be printed and framed, but I couldn’t keep myself from arranging the photos nicely on my desktop. I’m using a dual screen setup on my desktop, and while browsing the photos on the left screen, I dragged the photos I’d evaluate for printing onto the other screen, creating Picture frame widgets displaying them when dropping the photos (this even works for remote files, pretty cool). The work-flow this way is actually pretty close to how I’d do it with real physical object, browsing through stacks of photos and putting a selection aside for further investigation.

The photos I happened to choose are taken in various parts of the world, there’s the old ship in Jamaica, the entry sign to Bora Bora in Brazil, Edinburgh’s castle, the entry hall of a spa in Budapest, a Spanish rooftop, Kevelaer’s basilique and of course a bunch of photos taken in Nijmegen, my home town — notably the perfectly boiled egg.

What kind of fun work-flows did you discover while using Plasma?

Got published, too!

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Desktop Search in KDE 4.4 articleLike Aurelien, I had a surprise in my (physical) mailbox yesterday, and a very similar one to Aurelien’s, even. Some months ago, I had written an article for the German edition of Linux Magazin User explaining how the semantic desktop works in KDE’s applications and Plasma. It’s a very user-centric article that also gives some background information about how Nepomuk (KDE’s semantic and search technology) goes way beyond what desktop search provides. The article, while focusing on KDE SC 4.4, which is already a good 8 months old is still largely valid, though performance and usefulness of various Nepomuk components has gone up quite a bit, here and there it even has become second nature when using my desktop or laptop. I’m especially pleased by the on-demand scanning of metadata in Dolphin, so you don’t have to index all your potentially interesting files, just to get metadata. When writing articles, the wordcount now shown in Dolphin is a must, when editing images, the size of the image displayed in Dolphin is one big time-saver.

The copy of the magazine I got in the mail yesterday was an English translation of the German article, and already got published in June. The mag must have been stuck in the mail queue for a while, as I’ve only got it now. Nice surprise, though.

House Hacking.

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

(Almost) no KDE in this blog entry, you can happily skip it if you’re not interested in anecdotes about my life outside of Free software. :)

I’ve been quite busy lately with some non-coding stuff. Kim and I bought a house in Nijmegen (about 10 minutes by bike from our current place), and we got the keys two weeks ago. The house is in pretty good shape, but still needs some improvements to make it really ours (I call it the "bonding process"). The biggest one is renovating the roof under which my new home office will be located. As I work from home, and quite a lot so, that room is really important to me. As for the really important stuff, you should get a professional, we looked around and recruited a small company that’s specialized in this kind of renovation projects. Ton Brink has since then stripped the top floor, added a window to the north-east and isolated everything around it with 8 cm thick glass wool. Big energy saver. the roof was previously not isolated at all (the house was built in second half of the 60s, and the top floor wasn’t used anyway so the whole floor was used as isolation layer albeit with a gaping hole — the staircase). A No-No by today’s standards. Besides that, the climate in the Netherlands is as such that it’s either too cold or too hot, and that’s doubly so under the rooftop. (I know everything about it, since our current apartment is also top-floor, so it cools out relatively quickly, and is very hot in those couple of weeks of summer we usually get — in a record night last summer, it stayed above 29 degrees centigrade with all windows open. Complaining about the weather is also a very typical Dutch habit I’ve acquired over the years.). So, isolation is important to keep the place both warm and cool. The south-west side of the roof (its back side) gets an extended roof window (a "dormer") over the full width adding quite some volume to the room itself. That window goes to the south-west, and will get electric sun-screens to block out direct sunlight. That one is rather important the windows are huge, the desk will be near the windows and direct sunlight on the screens is an ergonomic nightmare putting a lot of strain on the eyes. The room will otherwise be warmed and cooled with an air-conditioning unit, as it doubles as shelter for the too warm nights in the summer. Interestingly, when considering heating options, it turned out that the air-conditioning will be the more efficient way to keep the room warm than the currently installed central heating unit. Out the door goes the big radiator, in goes a book-shelf full of geek literature.
There’s a nice 3-seater sleeping couch on the shopping list for my home office as well, so it triples as guest room with king-size bed for friends or fellow hackers for sleep-overs. The couch is located right under the window, so spacing out there is will be fun, as you can watch the stars during longer compile jobs. What would an office without a comfy couch be, anyway? I was quite amazed to see the room going from its original state to a stripped-down version and now gaining features again, such as the new front window and isolation layer today (good timing, this afternoon was the ‘dry period of the week’). There’ll be closets and drawers in the dead corners, which can house piles of hardware and cabling to unclutter sebas’ hacking space.

One of the things I haven’t figured out yet is what the best lighting option for the room would be. I’d like not-too-direct light there, and it should be reasonable warm-coloured. I’ve been looking a bit into the direction of LED lamps, but I’m not quite happy with the options. Most common are LED elements with a couple of LEDs combined into a halogen-style fitting. Prices begin at 15€ per element, so they’re not exactly inexpensive, and prices rise quickly. There seem to be big differences in quality among those elements, and they’re not by nature dimmable as well. There are dimmable LED lamps on the market though, so that’s probably solvable. What I don’t find enough information about is about the light colour. I certainly don’t want blue-white light in the room. The thing I really like about the idea of LED lighting in my office is that it’s ridiculously energy efficient, and it rubs my geek nipples in just the right way. My impression though is that LED lighting is not quite mature yet in terms of mainstream market availability, and that I therefore might not get what I’d want the result to be. The energy efficiency might actually backfire if you just put LED elements into halogen fittings, the power supply for those lamps is probably made for consumption of about 10 times as much juice, I guess loss during the transformation down to consumable voltages adds up quite a bit. (Correct me if I’m wrong, I didn’t pay as much attention during physics lessons back at school.) Also, I didn’t find a lot of new applications of LEDs, as you can more easily spread the light over a larger source area, I’d imagine some new cool and more useful shapes for lamps should be possible. If anyone reading me can shed some light on this, please leave a comment.
An alternative option is of course halogen lighting. Downsides: less geeky, more Watts. Upsides: lot of choice on the market, suitable colouring and dimming capabilities. (I’m quite happy with the halogen lamps we’re currently using.)

I’m myself mostly occupied with sanding and painting (proof, note the cheesy comment: "even if I’m painting white, I’m still the man in black" follows the "official meloenstraat renovation sound-track Johnny Cash, Pearl Jam, Madonna and Tiesto) slightly more boring, but also a lot closer to my improving skill-set. I’ve actually been enjoying the painting and fixing up of the house so far, it’s a nice change from my usual activities, which involve far less physical exercise (if traveling isn’t counted as "physical exercise"), but just about the same amount of attention to detail. As a side-effect, I’m losing a bit of weight, which is also welcome as I’m slightly overweight (only slightly, really :P). By the end this house-hacking exercise, I’ll likely be stable around normal weight for a person of my length, so that’s a nice bonus. It means I can gain weight again, which usually involves fun. :-)

Tonight, Kim and me have varnished a bunch of door frames with a medium dark grey. I’m not a 100% sure if that’s the perfect tone against the white walls, but then the idea is to add color by printing and framing some of the nicer photos I’ve taken over the past years, it might just all look very neat in the end. Tomorrow, wallpaper will be delivered which we’re applying towards the end of the week on three walls spread over two rooms. The master bed room gets a relatively flashy photo-wall, Kim’s room is in for a "modern 70s-style" 3d-ish pattern. My realistic expectation is that the rooms will look kick-ass with walls like that, and that the large photo wall adds both depth and a good amount of colour to the room. It’ll otherwise stay relatively sober (it’s a bedroom). That of course only if we manage to apply the wallpaper neatly enough. I’ll post photos of the result to the FlickR stream.

There’s a lot more things to do, the floors and both staircases will get new floors, most likely linoleum as that’s easy to maintain, long-lasting and very sustainable in general, being made of fast-growing natural materials and fully bio-degradable after its supposedly 20-25 years lifetime. (It’s also convenient since it offers less of a target for the cat’s claws — still soft and warm enough to sleep on.

I often compare (as the subject of this entry already suggests) the renovation with a hacking project. In the beginning, we have a vague idea of what I want the end result to be. Then we started planning and doing some research, but also quickly started doing things. Along the way we find out how to solve things, and by putting in hours it becomes apparent how things work out, and what part of the plans and ideas need changing. This is also pretty much how I get into new exciting hacking projects. I start off with an idea what the end result roughly should be. Then I do some research, which often involves getting some feedback from others if the overall idea is sound, and what kind of problems I can expect that I hadn’t thought of myself. This is an important part of the process, since it actually helps with getting things accepted by others when it’s done, and communicates plans so you don’t end up working in parallel with someone else on the same thing without knowing of each other’s efforts. Then I start to tag along with filling in parts of what needs doing, concentrating on overall progress, but much more working out the details. And those take time, for example, I’d not imagined (naive as I can be), how much time painting heating pipes can be, or cleaning out the used brushes afterwards. In the end, you ship your project (or move into the house), and then you’ll inevitably start seeing small and bigger things that still need doing. The maintenance process starts, but also the period where you really make it yours, and where your work-flows and living habits adapt to the new environment. (After all, the hacking project also started to scratch an itch.)

We’re moving in the last weekend of October, and much needs to be done still. It should all be finished by the first week of November, so that I can clean my head again for more work- and KDE-related things. The idea is really to turn the house into something we can comfortably live in, and and for me personally to create some space for myself that offers a relaxed environment for doing creative things and being productive.

In November, my fellow KDE e.V. board members come over to Nijmegen (where also Adriaan lives) for one of our regular board meetings. This time around we chose Nijmegen as location, since it’s very easy to reach from inter-continental flights into Amsterdam (having Celeste go through 3 lay-overs is probably not very helpful for a productive meeting), and by train from Berlin (for Claudia) and southern Germany for Cornelius and Frank. There’s a well-equipped (food, drinks, power plugs) ICE stopping in Arnhem, which is just 15 minutes from Nijmegen. So I hope to get everything done in time for the meeting, so we can warm the house with some KDE love =)