Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Please help: I am looking for a new name for my blog

My blog's name is - let's call it "strange without a story". So why stst31415?
Obviously stst is short for my name and if you remember school 31415 could resemble the starting sequence of pi (3.1415...) I remember that easily, but I got the feedback that no one else can remember that easily. So I said: Gotta change that!

So this is where the beehive of the internet comes in. Now I could need some suggestions.

Nothing is too strange,
You can use my name: Stefan or Steve if you prefer the english version.
You can use everything else.
Make some suggestions. I will either use the whole thing or only parts. You can use the comment or the contact form. Thank you.

Monday, August 30, 2010

As ordered: The shocking truth on the Hippo and statistical evidence

The Hippopotamus (or short Hippo) is a creature lying most of the day in bed. If the sun shines, the hippo is sleeping and when it is dark: sleeping again. One might think, that the hippo is depressed or sick. No.
The hippo is a stuffed animal. It was adopted at Ikea and brought straight to my civilized home, where it is used as a pillow or to amaze children. The real hippo is different - but I am not going to talk about size.

The wikipedia told me that there is an even smaller hippo, that the whale is kind of a big cousin to the hippo and that there's no statistical evidence that there are more deaths per year by hippos than by any other big animal in Africa. But what does the last fact mean?

Would he be so relaxed
with a hippo nearby?

Is statistical evidence the truth? No. It is not. Statistical evidence is to be seen as the approximate correctness. So statistical evidence can be 100% correct if you have a sample of 100%, i.e. all of everything. In case of the hippos that would mean something, but there could still be statistical evidence for a lot of accidents occuring with hippos. People could die due to the injuries in these accidents. Depending on the statistical data this would or would not count.
So statistical evidence is depending on data. What you could learn from the hippo: You cannot make something out of nothing, but there is statistical evidence that I will get a book from the shelf and meet the hippo on the sofa.

ABOUT: This story was ordered in a comment to Writing in non mother tongue by Rosa with the words Hippos (actually 3 times in a row).

My Girlfriend wants to have a decision about the wedding

I wrote about decisions earlier. Knowing or realizing things does not mean that you do them. So here I sit after a conversation with my girl. I realized I cannot go to the wedding. She does not know either if she wants to do it without me.
Man hates changes!
Did you think this post was on my wedding? Sorry, no wedding. It is again on decisions. Why do we hate decisions? Do we hate decisions because they imply changes? One might remember πάντα ῥεῖ (Everything flows) by Heraklit from school. I do not know what Heraklit thought when he coined this sentence. But he is right. We are already in a constant flow of changes.

Maybe this is why we hate changes.
Let's assume that the brain is efficient. If it is efficient the brain would be against all actions which lead to workload. So resisting against change could be kind of a loadbalancing functionality. It takes a bigger perspective to see that the change might bring improvements.

And then there is the rule of thumb: Never change a running system.

If you are interested in reading about Western philosophy I recommend the book by Bertrand Russell. It gives a brief history of the western world and philosophy, also describing social and technological changes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why everybody is keen on the best 10 things

ImreKalo has a short post titled The best five books on everything over at his blog. This made me think. Mostly because of the fact, that a lot of information we consume is organized in lists. I think in the direction of "The best Android apps", "Blurays with superb sound" and the charts. Why is it that way?
 I have some theories, but I only present you with the best three ;-)

  1. We want to know what others like and what trends exist out there.
  2. Too much choice is agony - Have you ever tried to choose an apple out of 50 varieties
  3. A small number of recommendations might give you enough insight into one topic, so you can work alone from that point.
So there is obviously the advantage, that other people made the decision which information is important. The did the work for you. Think FAQ, think Tips and Tricks, think Wikipedia. 

Remember: The content and quality of information is in the hands of the gatekeeper. The right 5 books can put you into the position to understand the main concepts of a topic, they do not make you an expert. To get an expert you have to read some more.

What is the maximum number of books you read on one single topic?

Writing in non-mother tongue and the difference between efficent and effective

If you read through my posts and are native english speaker you might discover: English is definitely not his mother tongue. All others can find hints in pictures and texts. So my postings are definitely effective.

Vienna | Parliament
Vienna | National Library
I live in Vienna. The pictures show, that it is a dark country, mostly at night. You can not see many people in the pictures because they might be sitting in front of their TVs and Computers - just like in any other country. And people here speak German (if you meet one of us - Austrian would be the preferred word), so the texts can be seen as sub optimum efficient.

I think of writing in non-mother tongue as a good exercise in being efficient and effective. Do you know the difference?
Being efficient means doing the things right and being effective means doing the right things.
 The point is that I cannot remember why I starting writing in English. Maybe it is because English is widely spoken, maybe because I wanted to write in English. Who knows.
This might be the right time to order a story by writing something in the comments. Just in case I ever run out of things I could write about.

Why Android is suitable for business

I often hear that Android is not suitable for business. If you take the time and get into an in-depth discussion, you will find out that people have strange prejudices on Android phones.

  1. Android phones sync with Exchange! On my HTC there were two mail applications preinstalled. G-Mail and Mail. It is obvious, what G-Mail does but the HTC mail application can handle several accounts using activesync, POP3 and IMAP. Push is supported and it works perfect. It even has the strange effects, that mails arrive before they do in Outlook or the G-Mail web interface.
  2. You can open all standard attachments (Word, Excel, Powerpoint). If you buy a full version of Documents to Go (yes, the one used on Blackberry) you can even edit powerpoint files and similar.
  3. You can track your calls to a calendar using Call Track. I created a calendar where all incoming, missed and outgoing calls are mapped to. I even create calls to make there, so I have everything concerning phone in one place.
  4. I already wrote about dropbox and how to keep your reading list in earlier posts.
Maybe there are thousand more reasons why Android phones are as suitable for business as other ones. One of the most important reasons is: They are flexible. You can arrange things in scenes. That means, that you can define screens for different surroundings (but still keeping the power to use all the functions). Weekend means fun, games, meeting friends and - in my case - also using c:geo and georg to find some nice geocaches.

Do you still want to be the slave to your Blackberry?

Friday, August 27, 2010

How to create a QR code business card

If you own a smart phone - or an even smarter phone you probably already know what an QR code is. If you don't know I a sure you will have seen this somewhere on the web or in a magazine.

A QR code is a two-dimensional barcode. A big part of it consists of error correcting code and it somehow looks funny. I was looking for a possibility to share my contact coordinates or even calendar entries for smart-phones when I stumled across

With that webpage you can create these QR codes for your business card, for coordinates and for calendar events. When you try the calendar event, test the QR code before you use it. Daylight savings time is a real *****. When I tested it on my HTC Desire with Barcode Scanner I experienced a strange bug. Every calendar event I created lasted only for 1 hour. Even when it was supposed to be longer.
Anyone with Blackberry or Iphone experiencing the same behaviour?

The difference between flowers and a very bad decision

Of course there is a difference between good and bad decisions. I think there are many pages on the web which tell academic tales on that topic. But they are focusing on the outcome or an the context of decisions. What I want to say is simpler.

A symbol for riddles

A good decision is a decision you make. The outcome might still be good or bad. But if you do not decide what to do, your influence on the outcome will vanish or the number of options will tend towards zero. You still have the option to decide not to take steps leading to action. But there will be a decision and that's the point.

So the next time you walk by a florist it is your decision to walk in, your decision to buy flowers for the man or woman you love. In case of doubt go for roses. I am quite sure that the outcome of this decision is a good one...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A short affair with tumblr

I have to admit: Tumblr is nice, very nice. And I was really thinking of switching...   ...for 314 milliseconds. It was a simple decision. I played with tumblr for an hour. Two thirds of the time I played with the design and when I was at the point, that I wanted to actually fill in content. I was realizing, that I loved to play with the design.

But I do this already with this blog. I lose time, because I love to play with the colors and the layout. Well I have a new rule: No changing the design of this blog until October. So I can concentrate on the content.

At the end of the day this is the return of the concept: Separate form and content. The form is often realized using a template and the content is edited separetly. You see it realized in content management systems, LaTeX or the wedding of CSS and HTML. The idea is also half realized in wordprocessing software. If you ever worked with naked HTML or LaTeX you know what happens when the flow kicks in, because you have do not have to think on the form.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Real nice sunset pictures when leaving work

The morning started with strange clouds. But the evening was very pleasant.


This is again the point where I love my HTC Desire as it makes nice pictures. But I promise to clean the lense first before taking the next pictures. The cleaning cloth is already in my pocket.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Little dragons - but with water?

Please help update my flagcounter

I discovered flagcounter on and fell in love with the idea of counting flags instead of hits. The only problem: There is no possibility to get the "old" hits into the counter. Can you help update my flagcounter? Thank you. Feel free to comment below and leave the adress of your blog.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When your brain makes you think and not the other way around

The weather this weekend was very nice. What do you do when the weather is nice? Yes, you go outside and visit the real life with oxygen, bugs and the other creatures...   ...people. Playing tourist in Vienna is fun. We went to places where we have not been before. We were strangers in our home town.
After city center you need something green and so we followed the tramway D to Nussdorf which is old and in the outskirts (see this picture and you will see, why it is so nice).

A lot of the tourists go there for the Beethoven house. One of many, I have to say: Beethoven lived in 36 houses in Vienna (Read an into deep article here - german only). Good for the fans, confusing for the "casual" tourist.

When standing in front of the Beethovenhaus Kahlenbergerstrasse 26 two elderly folks were talking about the house and how it looked like: devastated and falling apart. They thought that the people living in the house do not care for the house. Well this is what I thought at first also. But then it struck me. This is a historical monument. They are not allowed to change the original state. No painting wooden windows, repairing doors and so on without consulting the Bundesdenkmalamt (Austrian office for monuments).

Your brain will always tend to find a plausible explanation for everything around you. The more you know the trickier these actions get. Like the late Robert Anton Wilson said about the parts of your inner self "Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover will prove." And I do not know who said the following (if you know, let us all know): Man sees patterns everywhere, even if they are not there.
Do you use your brain or does your brain use you?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What are your favourite Ingredients to kick off learning?

Those of you who read my last posts remember that I wanted to learn programming Android. Did you ever ask yourself what has to happen to start a learning process? So here is my theory of the ingredients to a tasty learning experience:

  1. Commitment
  2. Clear picture of what you want to learn
  3. A plan
  4. The steps to your target are small enough you can make them.
  5. Cool tools (mental and hitech)
These points are obvious, maybe they are not even a complete list, but do you see the parallels to project management? You can only succeed in learning if you keep to your plan, if you know where you are and where you are going to and how you are going to do that.

But there is one thing which is always true: Do something. If there is no action, there is no change. Even the decision not to learn something is an action. Then you do not have to worry about this point on your list - if you have a list.

BTW: I went to a bookstore nearby and bought a book on Android programming. This is my new side project. Tomorrow I am going to work out a plan with my milestones.

One thing is missing in my list - on purpose. Repetition: What are your favourite ingredients to learning?

Is this an ancient cartoon?

While walking through Vienna I found these two animal friends. I wonder what they talk about...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trying to learn how to program Android - it cannot be that hard, right?

So here I sit in front of the screen. Actually I wanted to write something about GMail's labels and how to use them on your Android in order to get things done and your GMail in order.
Then I needed a screenshot. Cannot be that hard, right?
So you search the net for the solution. If you do, you find a lot of root your phone first, 100 simple steps to quench a screenshot out of your Android and similar hits. There is no elegant and simple solution. Can you believe this?

What is the next step? The next step is to follow these instructions. So you install the SDK.
Stupid idea No. 1: Playing around
Stupid idea No. 2: Thinking about programming the Android
Stupid idea No. 3: Dropping the plan to write an article about Gmail.

And the brilliant outcome: What do I need in order to program Android? Any ideas? Where do I start? Did you write the best 101 or tutorial on the web? Then please write to me.

BTW: What I wanted to write about with the GMail labels was one solution to the following scenario: I often have some E-Mails where I wait for a reply or am supposed to act. So why not create an according label ACTION or HOLD? That was the easy part and basically it was low level GTD. Next you simply create a link on your Android pointing to these labels. Easy checking of the replies (and easy sending of reminders) and a good task list. Too fast? OK. I think I have to make some screenshots.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How to use the power of the cloud on your Android

I think the buzzword of 2010 will be cloud. That was good. It means that we got all this nice gadgets who use the power of the cloud. And I am not talking about the fact, that you can use Google Maps to navigate around your hometown (if you are lucky and this service supported in your area / country).

I wanted to share the following observations/apps with you that enable you to sync information back and forth through the cloud.
  1. Dropbox can make your life easier. Very easy. And you can even use it on your Android.
  2. Chrome2Phone pushes links and phonenumbers from your browser to your phone
  3. The other way around is possible by using android2cloud
  4. I already wrote about Read It Later and how to sync it with your Android
There are plenty of other possibilities to sync with a clouded service. That is for sure.
So there is only room for the final question: If social media is like digital crack, what is the cloud?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Are smart phones the end of "never change a running system"?

Some smart phone software is like bananas - ripening in the phone of the end user. Why is that so? I really appreciate that my Android phone has more and more "useful" apps. I have no idea how often I update them.
Really. Where is the point if the agile development is so agile that there is one update a week?
The first rule I learned on a computer was to never change the running system. On my Android it is: If in doubt change the running system! Is the running system a question how ripe the system as such is?
I will keep complaining about the updates, but I will keep installing them, because I love to see the little changes in the software. What do you do?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How smart phones and the web centralize your digital life again

I admit. This is from the point of a Android user, but I think it shouldn't be different if you have any other OS on your phone.
Basically we are at the end of a phase where there is no more need to carry around floppy disk (in case you cannot remember, click here). Actually the media got physically bigger first (Floppy disk, CD, DVD, external Harddisk) only to get smaller last (USB-Stick) and finally disappear. This is where the dropbox comes in. Online storage for free (BTW: If you use my link we both receive 250MB more).
This is where the second line comes in: Next to storage and carrying data from one place to another (the workaround to email everything back and forth does not count) is the fact, that we all use various computers. Various computers, files, versions... ...I think you get the point. So the idea is brilliant.
And the most brilliant idea of all was to make the cloud available for phones. So I have my calendar, my dropbox, my everything with me...
Can anybody tell me: If the cloud knows everything. What is the equivalent to a thunderstorm?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is there a cultural difference in the meaning of danger?

Actually I was walking to pick up a geocache near Augarten when I found the sign which said something slightly different in English than in German. In English the park area is dangerous (due to a storm - which took place the night before). The German line says "Lebensgefahr" which basically is a threat to life.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

So I bought some icecream around the corner and went in. There were elderly men playing Bocce, people playing chess, reading books and some were watching the trees shaken by the storm. The water on the lawn was crowded with crows drinking there.
And everything happened in the shadow of the ugly giant Flakturm G-Tower (oh yes - there is a second one of these buildings in the same park). Too much concrete for demolition inside a urban area. I wonder how many storms they saw without any scratch.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Never ask your girlfriend what you should write about

Why? The answer is so simple. "Write, that you love me." Why should I write about something as personal as my love to the woman in my life? Well at least I can write about something then. Because I know the old newspaper principle: SAC - Sex, animals and children. These should be things to reach people of every age, profession and equal sex.

I am so glad, I am writing this blog and no newspaper. So I can still decide what to write about. So I did. And I love her.

How to get readable texts in your browser

Yes. There it is: The problem which is as old as the internet: I cannot read the text because of all the clutter, I cannot print the page, because of all the clutter... I think, there is no need for me to continue?
Well. The solution is Readability. Another bookmarklet in your browser which simply does what it says: It makes the page readable. On the web. The perfect possibility to leave out the noise and get to the point: reading.
Read for yourself why they did it and try it. I am sure you will love it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I will read this later

Of course. But do you have the right tools? This is no silly question. You might say: I have a printer. But is it worth the printing for the one time you read the article?
There is a site with the nice and self-explaining title Read it later list. What do you get? You receive the possibility to save links for later reading. This happens with bookmarklets or plugins. The good thing: There are clients for mobile platforms. I use Paperdroid (for Android) in the pro version myself to sync my list for reading in the underground (you can find a free version here). There are also other clients - even for IPhone. If you like you can drop a comment at the end of this blog.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Time for some virtual sightseeing

So the summer is nearly over and I think that this is the perfect time to send some of you to Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Hungary. As I cannot afford such an act in real life, it has to be virtual. Everybody knows Google streetview - but have you ever heard of NORC?
If you enjoy your little virtual trip, please leave me a comment...

Some shortcuts you really should know when operating in Excel

I love shortcuts. And I am an Excel addict. Well. There are some shortcuts you might find useful. To add a timestamp to a cell you can use:

[CTRL]+[.]    insert date
[CTRL]+[:]    insert time

And if you work with long lists you might already know, that you can

[CTRL]+[ENTER]    inserting the same data in all selected cells

But wait: It is always the same question which is left. How can I copy and paste formatting from one cell to another? Maybe this is the question I leave to you to answer. BTW you should know that by double clicking the icon to copy and paste formats you can paste the format of the selected cell multiple times. Without any further clicking on this icon.

Why don't you try what happens when you do a [SHIFT]+[CTRL]+[C] and ...+[V] in Word? Ever tried?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Calculating without electricity

When going through old things today I rediscovered an old Brunsviga 15. An old mechanical calculator. It is bigger than a slide rule and also a little big heavier. The weight must be way over 10 kilograms.

As you can see it has been used. My children are usually amazed by the number of levers. And by the fact that the machine does a decent ring when turned through Zero...

My girlfriend is always right...

And the strange thing is that there is no contradiction to the fact that I am right at the same time. Well, the actual problem is: She is right in her reality and I am in mine.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Writing free of distractions

If I write text I often use an editor. The formatting follows in a second step. I am a big fan of Notepad++ and I really enjoy the wide variety of features and ways to handle data.

And then I discovered Bend

A very simple and distraction free interface, tabs, a great search feature and the best feature of all: it simple looks good and does all you need. For those of you who are not that much into writing: It also does syntax highlighting. But you should really have a look for yourself.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Keeping up with blogging

The last few days were interesting. I did not write a post a day - as was my intention - but I made some really interesting notes on things I could write on. So why I am I writing on taking notes? Because today I realized that a lot of blog posts are never written.

Some due to laziness, some due to the thinking that it is everything else but interesting and some because the ideas for the post were never written down. So I keep on scribbling my notes and hope to surprise you in the next weeks. Definitely not daily, but I will do my best.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Froyo on HTC Desire

Finally the update arrived. Installation was easy and took 10 minutes only (without downloading the 90 MB). The features that struck me first were:
  1. portable WLAN hotspot
  2. Display can be turned 270° also
  3. Applications can be installed to the SD-card
and finally

the language of the keyboard can be changed faster.

That is very important for me as I change from English to German and back. So far I could not make out any problems with applications. What about you?
If you wondered: I left out the flashlight application for a reason.

Update: Nearly everything that's changed

What happened here in 1278?

There must have been a time when putting up monuments was a sports in Austria. I actually like this one. There is a middle ages festival in Dürnkrut (look it up in Wikipedia) on 14th/15th August like every year - do not miss it. It is part of the celebrations of the battle on the Marchfeld.

Popular Posts all time