Active Collab

August 14th, 2007

A colleague tipped me off to check out Active Collab, an open source alternative to Basecamp, the widely respected project management solution. Upon setting up my first project, it feels pretty good. Some things are just off, like the way it’s centered around “companies” and “clients”, when I feel that many people (say, students) might use these things for other uses than business. In any case, definitely worth checking out, supposing that you have your own web host. I wouldn’t change my paid-for Basecamp projects over to it just yet, though, since a lot of features are still being developed.

My motivation for trying out Active Collab was that I needed a solution for a freelance gig and the idea of having zero restrictions (number of projects, size of files and so on) appealed to me. As it stands, Basecamp is still easier to use and better designed.


Stepping back (Apple MacBook)

August 12th, 2007

I’m changing jobs and I need to give up my MacBook. I’m not sure what I’m getting in my new job, but most likely PC hardware, in any case, the company I’m working for being large, as opposed to the very flexible advertising agency environment I’m currently in.

I admit I’ll miss the computer a lot. Making the change back to the Windows world does not please me; although the possibility of trying Vista on for a size intrigues me. I’m very likely to get a new portable Mac at some point for personal use.

As it happens, the MacBook has severely let me down just this weekend. Coming back from a holiday, its battery had depleted and the computer just won’t recognize it anymore. The software update didn’t help and it needs to be replaced. Well, not my problem anymore.

I’m hoping Colibri can alleviate my need for Quicksilver. There is one thing I’m welcoming back though, that being the Windows Explorer as opposed to the Mac Finder. Although Path Finder improved file management a lot, I guess I’m just so used to the Explorer that it never felt quite as natural to me. Coda will be missed, as well.

Looking at the whole, though, I’m pretty certain I will first and foremost miss the keyboard and touchpad. This laptop is a joy to type and work on, something I can’t say I have nearly experienced with any PC laptop hardware. Most likely an external screen, keyboard and mouse are called for, again.


Bookshelf: World War Z

August 12th, 2007

Max Brooks’ novel of mankind’s aftermath of the so-called zombie war makes for absorbing reading. The work labels itself an “oral history” and makes every effort to read like an actual debrief of a war mankind barely survived. The concept is that zombies spread all over the world and mankind needs to fight them off.

Brooks uses an interview style which provides a perfect blend of narrative, discussion of “facts”, personal accounts and vivid imagery. I found myself forgetting its fictional nature many times, almost about to tell tales of the zombie war to people unfamiliar with the book. Brooks has conjured very effective scenes and people, stuff you like to tell to people, wondering if this is how it would play out. It’s certainly very believable.

They’re making a movie about this and for once I’m somewhat positive about a forthcoming film adaptation. With a documentary style it just might repeat the book’s effectiveness.


Smoke

August 10th, 2007

We brought back a shisha (hookah, waterpipe) from Berlin. The trip was much better than I anticipated, and the shisha is a sort of exclamation point to the whole trip. I’ve been meaning to get one ever since my first to trip to Egypt, in 2001.

I think I fell for waterpipes when I saw the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland smoking one. Since then I never saw one before my trip to Egypt, where I just really liked the atmosphere of sitting around a table with friends, passing a shisha around in the evening. (To be clear, I’ve smoked only flavored tobacco in a shisha, no other sorts of drug.)

So strolling around in a Turkish neighborhood in Berlin, we looked into getting one if we could find something that looked like the locals were actually using. The one we got was not on display and there was the language barrier to get past, since the locals don’t speak English that much.

It works beautifully, and sitting in the candlelight in our balcony, savoring the apple flavor, I felt a bit more at home. Memories of Luxor hit back – only now with a bit of eastern Berlin mixed in.


Off to Berlin

August 1st, 2007

I’m off to Berlin for ten days with my wife for what’s left of my summer vacation. It’s been a good summer vacation thus far, albeit a bit rainy and windy. Lots of time with friends, lots of nerdiness, lack of some things I planned, but I’m not complaining. When I get back, there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on, like the game journalist gig at this large youth magazine I’m trying on for size. I’m really looking forward to this fall.

(Damn, I wish I could say “autumn” as it’s a much nicer word, but I’m afraid I’ve already pretty much committed to the American set. On a second thought, who cares?)

I’m really looking forward to this autumn.


The tally of two days

July 15th, 2007

Amon Tobin: Foley Room
Amon Tobin: Chaos Theory
Turbonegro: Retox
Ken Ishii: Flatspin
Conan The Barbarian
Bubba Ho-Tep
The City Of Lost Children

And a healthy afternoon of Final Fantasy XII plus a match of Defcon, with some miniatures on the side. It’s good to be on holiday.


Change

July 12th, 2007

I’m alone in the office, for the second to last day at work in my current job. I have a habit of listening to loud music when I’m working alone; it helps me to concentrate. Being in this crossroads moment, I found myself going through old songs. I listened through Therapy’s Troublegum from the junior high years and now I find myself somewhat overcome with Iron Maiden’s Childhood’s End. Of course it’s iconic and taken in the context, pathetically cliched, but it just fits the mood, taking me back to the first major change in my life, the end of junior high.

I’m 29 now, going into my third real job, these days very much defining myself through my work… and it’s the same feeling, standing on the edge of the old and peering into what’s to come. The feeling of change is almost tangible and something I’m finding immeasurably energizing.


Recommended reading

June 29th, 2007

I find it very difficult to read multi-page stories on the web, but this is so good that it just breezed by. It’s about Hans Reiser, a Linux programmer now suspected of having murdered his wife. I don’t really want to elaborate on it, it’s a better read if you don’t know much about it before the fact. I suspect the writing style isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I found it enormously well written.

Wired on Hans Reiser.


Summer and St. Petersburg

May 27th, 2007

The above sight is from our apartment window, from earlier today. It’s coming from the trees. Beautiful. (Nevermind the sound, I was on the phone.)

I was in St. Petersburg for the past few days with my entire company, some eighty people. I had not been to Russia before. My wary expectations of the country were devastated, and I no longer have any reservations against going there. It is a beautiful city. The locals seem to not speak English, but we managed. I had some five hours of strolling around time, and it was barely enough to see one end of the Nevsky Prospekt (go Gogol!).

The weather was so grand that I burnt my neck for the first time this year. We were on a three-hour cruise on the Neva, and the sun just glared down, bringing the temperature up to +26 Celsius (78 Fahrenheit). Nice.


iSync and Nokia 9300 play together

May 22nd, 2007

I’ve been brewing a disaster, running three separate calendars (Lightning on the MacBook, Basecamp on the web, mobile phone). I finally managed to combine them using the MacBook’s iSync with Nova Media’s cheap plugin (about 10€ + tax). When I stopped trying it the hard way and just paid for the plugin, I was up and running in less than five minutes. Recommended!

I don’t yet have experience on how it all hangs together in practice, but with the plugin I got iSync talking with the Nokia 9300, and iCal should be able to subscribe to Basecamp’s milestones. I think that I can also get Lightning to play with the iCal, but I’m not at all sure if I want to use it anyway… I always disliked the way Outlook put the email and the calendar in the same workspace, making it a pain to write email and check the calendar at the same time.

Ah, the relief. I was expecting disaster to hit at any time, trying to keep up with the three separate calendars. Phew.