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New Soul

posted in Tech Talk on November 14th, 2008

A couple of months ago, I woke up to a a world of hurt: a bad cough and a busted graphics in an aging laptop.

Having faced an identical busted graphics card problem about a year before, too, I knew that repairing my rig would cost me approximately $1,200 to $1,500, depending on the availability of the items that are needed and the amount of man hours required to replace the parts.

While my Toshiba Tecra M4 has served me very well, I am not crazy enough about it to invest such a sum into a device that is 2.5 years old and quite honestly: who would, besides NASA.

The downside of my decision is that I have been laptop-less for close to six months now and since my Tablet PC acted as my primary computing platform, I am actually finding myself in a position where I get less work done in more time, simply due to the lack of adequate processing power.

Before I set out on my trip to the US, I was eying a couple of devices, such as the Asus EEE PC and even though I do not consider myself a geek, just being able to say that I built a web application with the help of the hottest sub notebook currently available, would have been a fun idea.

From a prosumer point of view, however, the EEE PC is definitely not able to cater for all my wishes and as such would not have been much than a secondary backup, computer as opposed to being my (primary) weapon of choice and as such, the hunt for new hardware continued.

Every few years in my computer life, I come to a point, call it a crossroads if you wish; a point where I decide to (radically) alter the way I go about doing things and go in directions I have not gone before, mostly in an effort to make my computing experience more pleasurable, but also: more efficient.

Seven years ago, this meant going the Pocket PC route and I have not regretted this one bit. Five years ago, it meant foraying down the Symbian Smartphone route, then back to Pocket PCs again.

This, eventually, lead to flirting with a Windows Mobile Smartphone, which worked well, due to its form-factor, but essentially changed my mobile computing habits from “creating” to “reading”, in other words: my productivity dropped, so back to Pocket PCs it was, once again.

During that period, I also ventured into the area of Tablet PCs, a technology that appeared interesting to me on a number of levels, mostly due to the fact that it altered the way I would be using my device henceforth.

After having used a Tablet PC for 2.5 years and having followed the scene since literally Day One, I can, wholeheartedly say that I did my best to accept it, love it and not hate it, but it just did not work out the way I hoped it would.

The applications that were killer and hot two years ago, are still the same ones that are hot today because, all in all, the Tablet PC ecosystem has not nearly seen as much influx as everyone predicted.

Their impact on the market is, still, negligible at best: Tablets are used by medical professionals and a few other niche areas, but for me, there is no future in this platform and as such, the hunt for new hardware continued, once again.

I knew that my next device, like my aging Tablet PC, would have to be a true Desktop replacement, because switching devices AND keeping them in sync all the time gets annoying really quick.

Another thing I require from my device is that it just works, in the sense that I do not have to install extra software when I hook up a projector, or, even worse: reinstall my whole operating system, because neither the built-in display adapter nor the external display provide me with any (visual) feedback whatsoever.

Naturally, just having a device that works is not all I want, I also wanted to try something new, venture into, for me, uncharted territory, so to speak. The last time around, this ended up being a Tablet PC, which basically was just an extension to the current operating system I was using at the time, this time around, I am inclined to switch operating systems too.

All in all, and more importantly, to bring this story an end, I have decided, that the best I could make is Apple’s new MacBook Pro and I am looking forward to, as one friend called it, experience that working with your computer can actually be fun.

Of course, while I made the decision on my own, I feel that there are two people I should thank, for putting up with my geekness during this trying time:

First and foremost, my biggest thanks go out to Nate Nelson who helped me put together my order, helped me change it, helped me order more stuff and even got me some nice extras to play with, thanks bro’!

Secondly, Kevin Pilasky for devoting the last three plus years of his life to make me consider and try out the OS X platform and finally have the guts to move to, and I quote: the system that will work for you!

* for the Apple fanboys who scuff at the mention of “New Soul” in combination with a MacBook Pro, I am sorry, I know the song is meant to be used for the MacBook Air, but it was just too tempting.

Saying goodbye

posted in personal stuff on June 1st, 2008

During the last week, I had a couple of meet-ups with friends and a tutor of mine in order to tie up loose ends and say goodbye in person to a

During the last week, I have had a couple of meet-ups with friends and a tutor of mine in order to tie up some loose ends and basically just say goodbye in person to those friends I will be missing the most.

While nobody cried (as far as I know), saying goodbye somehow never gets easier; thanks to the Internet, we will all be staying in touch of course, but nonetheless, not seeing your friends for an extended period of time does carry some emotional weight.

That said, a few friends of mine had a couple of really nice gifts for me; one of them being a picture frame with a touching selection of photographs and Jack even had a little speech prepared in order to prepare me for the trip; touching to say the least.

I also had the good fortune of being able to dine with a few friends of mine and talk about the past, present and future, my ambitions for New York and how I think it all will go. Very self-centered, but that is what goodbye-parties / dinners are mostly about, if you ask me.

One thing I realized remembered this week is how important and great friends can be and by friends, I do not mean contacts, but rather: real friends, those that will back you up, no matter what you set out to do and will try to support you to the best of their abilities.

One more thing I realized is that it is all about having the right friends and I think the best way to put it is to quote Nate’s grandpa:

If you go through life and can count on 5 good friends then you can consider yourself a lucky man.

And boy do I know that this is true, because friendship is not about the amount of friends you have, but about the quality of the relationship you have with your friends, it is about how intense it is and how intense you can make it.

That said, it is time for me to get some more packing done, because at this point, the countdown is at less than 48 hours and I am really excited to get to New York and start working with Pak-Kei.

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Working with the people you admire

posted in Internships on May 23rd, 2008

Let me tell you a story: a couple of years ago, back when I was still living in Austria, I discovered an application, called Trillian, a multi-network chat application that just worked.

Trillian was (and still is being) designed by Pak-Kei Mak, better known as kid, who, back then, was “just” a student who won a design competition.

Trillian’s design appealed to me; it was new, it was non-standard, it carried the mood factor and it had emoticons that, to this very day, make me smile (or frown, depending on the selected emotion).

Kid, besides being a kick-ass designer, also did some PHP coding on the side and created a script that would index a directory in the same (visual) style as Windows XP, and I loved that, as did Ben.

In fact, we enjoyed the greatness of said script so much that we basically created a clone of the whole indexer, distributed it amongst friends and made a few people happy with it, oh, and Ben and me close contacts of each other, often conversing long hours on the most interesting (or the most ridiculous) topics.

Fast-forward to January 2007, when I was invited to the Trillian Astra Alpha-testing cycle and decided, on a whim, to start a conversation with Kid, after all, this was my chance to talk to one of those that I admire.

One conversation quickly became many, admiration was joined by respect, advice, dare I say: (online) friendship? In any case, we felt that we struck a note with each other and we got along very well, so well, that Kid and I started working together.

At first, our collaborations only included brainstorms on various things, basically toying with ideas and sharing some dreams with each other, up until a point where I asked Kid to step up to the plate and design something for me. His work turned out great (more on that in another post) and we decided to continue our collaboration in the future.

A couple of weeks ago, when my first internship was entering the home lane, I had to make a decision: would I go for the medium or big company with the well-known name and earn a few pesetos but probably do stuff I have been doing the past couple of years, or would I go for the company that is not even a company but much rather an idea.

In my (professional) life, most of my choices have been about doing the thing that I am the most passionate about, I am interested in learning new skills and hone old(er) skills much more than I am in making a big buck (at least, right now) and so I went for the idea that I am passionate about.

From June 3rd, 2008 up until, at least, sometime mid-August 2008, Pak-Kei and me will be on a journey, a journey of exploration. We will be battling against many of the same things that (web) start-ups have to deal with and if bad meets worse on the way and they manage to get along well enough, we might end up with nothing but great experiences.

And in fact, the few people I discussed this with mostly told me, often in very specific terms to drop the idea of makin’ a big buck and just go work for an established company and be done with it.

While I value the input of the people around me, I believe that the following quote sums it up best:

He who tries and fails is wiser (and happier) than he who does not try out of fear of failure

And that is why I am going.

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Intern Report #9 (The Final Countdown)

posted in Internships on May 16th, 2008

Seventeen weeks ago, on January 19th, I started my first ever internship, at a company called XOLO.TV.

My college’s internship period officially did not start for another three weeks, but that did not bother me, I wanted the experience and I was not afraid of investing my free days in order to get that experience.

Now, seventeen weeks later, I have about seven weeks more experience than most of my co-students and am leaving XOLO.TV with a whole treasure-chest filled to the brim with new knowledge, good stories and new contacts.

It is said that all good things must come to an end, no matter if you want them to or not and In a way I am sad that my internship is over, for I will surely miss the guys (and gals) from XOLO.TV.

Without trying to come off as being too emotional, I think it is safe to say that I did not only find (business) contacts at XOLO.TV, but rather friends.

The past months, starting with the, by now, famous, New Year’s Party, Video Vortex, the actual start of my internship, Paaspop and The Next Web 2008 it has been a fun-filled ride for sure.

GabeB, GabeMac, Marc, Paul, Stephan, Tatjana, Walter, Wiendelt - you guys rock and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this internship experience as great as it was.

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Intern Report #8 (Next!)

posted in Internships on April 18th, 2008

Just two weeks after Paaspop, the 2008 edition of The Next Web was planned to happen at the beautiful Westergasfabriek area in Amsterdam and once again (for the third time in a row), I decided to join this fest of innovation and, to quote another attendee:

this buffet filled with delicious brainfood

This time around however, I decided to make things a bit more interesting, for obvious personal reasons.

As concluded before, working at XOLO has it’s perks, one of them being that we have a myriad cameras available for use, so I decided to assault the conference armed with a camera and a number of questions.

My hopes were that I would get at least two, maybe three interviews, at the end of the second day, I had a total of two hours of uncut footage. Even cut, I still had a good 90 minutes left, including high profile interviews with Robert Scoble and Jessica Mah as well as the, sometimes very controversial, views of a number of different attendees.

Day 1, for me, was mostly about interviewing companies and speakers, trying to get their views on how web 2.0 affected their lives in one way or another.

On Day 2, I focussed on capturing the views of females on web 2.0, because, after all, it is widely known that females tend to be more social beings than (most) males and as such, ought to have a different view on all things web.

The result is that I got some very good footage, with participation from people from, amongst others: VPRO, eBuddy and IENS.

As remarked during my live-blogging session, a camera is a powerful tool and if one asks the right questions (which I hopefully did), people are more than willing to share their stories, no matter if they are speaker or attendee.

Taping two hours of footage, obviously also requires a lot of editing, cutting and encoding but close to ten days after the conference, I was done with the better part of the clips.

Again, my thanks go out to XOLO.tv for making it possible to use their equipment, it made the whole conference a much more enjoyable event.

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