Back from the Black

Once a year, a lot of people travel to the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig, Germany, to enjoy everything the Gothic scene has to offer, and as usual, I went as well. Seeing that we are no longer twenty (at least that’s the excuse we use) we stay at a nice hotel from Friday to Monday, and pick some bands and parties from the long, long list of attractions of the festival. Sadly, while there were some real highlights (Amorphis and Rotthing Christ come to mind), and we of course missed some events because there is always something really great on Thursday or early Friday (Empusae in this case), or even Monday night (like Forndom), overall the concerts we attended were a little meh for us. Skinny Puppy comes to mind as especially disappointing: one of the old classic bands, if you will, and they just started of with a too long intro, getting lost in self-celebration, and overall not adhering to my personal number one rule for bands playing at a festival: play you best songs, not stuff from you new album – there will be a lot of people who know you, or even know of you, but are not rabid fans. Win them over. Also there will be competition: we left after four or five songs and went to a party instead, even though we had gone to that specific location just for Skinny Puppy. Ah well, I doubt they will listen to what I have to say.

On the journey back home from the festival this afternoon I was a little exhausted, and it certainly did not help that there was not one, but two groups of obnoxious older drinking people right in front of me. But when I got home, what made it all worthwhile was the message I got from my friend that he really enjoyed the trip and my company. Remember kids: it always helps to say what you feel!

Tough Mudder: Success!

I did something this last weekend that I would not have believed you if you told me I would do it some years ago: I ran a Tough Mudder. Also not a new Half Tough Mudder, but the Real Deal™. And to make matters worse, the event I participated in (in Arnsberg, Germany) is supposedly the hardest one in Germany because of the elevation changes – I think someone mentioned it is around 1940m over the whole course of around 18km. Yeah.

For the last months I actually trained running. I never did that before in my life, and it didn’t really start well. I am very grateful for my friends and colleagues who helped me train, and also that we did not stick to roads and other flat asphalt running, but did indeed move to woody and hilly terrain. It actually helped a lot, and it should not be underestimated to actually do that as preparation.

But that is not the only thing I took from this with regards to preparation. And both for whoever reads this and for my next run (and yes, I am pretty sure there will be a next run!), I want to share some personal insights.

  1. Shoes. Get special shoes for obstacle courses. This was the single best piece of equipment/clothing I got, and all people in my groupwho had also bought special shoes agreed. We had shoes from Merrell, but other brands will do just fine, I guess. Do not use your regular running shoes – we saw many people who did just that, and they all had really bad grip on the muddy terrain, and the shoes got really soaked with water and became heavy. The shoes designed for obstacle running have a much better sole design for additional grip, and they are very leaky – water just runs straight out again.
  2. Get fast drying clothes, don’t run in anything made from regular wool or cotton (maybe Merino wool, didn’t try it). That includes underwear and socks. It will soak up a lot of water, become really heavy, and cool you down in a bad way.
  3. Long sleeves and legs or short sleeves? A matter of preference. I had long clothes, because I read tipps that it helps prevent getting bruised by little stones while crawling through the mud. That is true, but that was (in our case) maybe three or four minutes of the multi-hour run… the people in our group with short sleeves and legs did not complain, so whatever you want probably works fine.
  4. Go with a group of three or more people. Some obstacles are really hard to do with just one or two persons. This is not mandatory, though, because people were really open and helpful. After all, you are in it together anyway.
  5. It really is not that bad. Really. Most obstacles are fun. Even the Arctic Enema (where you basically slide into ice water through a pipe) was not as bad as I expected. You can do it. If you can run half the length of the run in training without breaks, and can do some chin-ups and push-ups, you are in good shape for this. I boulder a lot and didn’t do any additional strength training, only added running once or twice a week for around 10 weeks, and it was fine.

Overall it was huge fun, even if I am down with a slight cold, and my muscles still ache some days later. Will I do it again? Yes, I am pretty sure I will! It was a fun experience, and now that I know it is doable, why not go for more Finisher tshirts and headbands?

Marvel Cinematic Universe – Viewing Order

I was always coming back to a specific post on Stack Overflow detailing the viewing order for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since I found it tedious to always go back there, so I copied it here as the basis of this post, but changed it to reflect changed dates, and include new movies and new TV series into in the list.

I feel the best viewing order for the MCU is the order in which the movies are released, that’s how they were written. The TV series sometimes tie into the movies (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), or are rather independent (Agent Carter) – but even in the latter case I would not watch them at a very different time, they might reveal something that is considered canon and spoil it anyway.

Updated: 2015-11-29, to include the second Ant-Man and the changed release schedule that results from its announcement, and the four new unnamed movies at the end of phase three (or phase four?). While updating this, I also added links to IMDB for all movies and seasons.

Updated again on 2020-06-03, to fix some errors in phase three. The TV series are not correctly sorted there at the moment, this will come over the next days.

Phase One: “Avengers Assembled”

  • Iron Man (2008-05-01)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008-07-10)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010-05-06)
    • One-Shot: “The Consultant” (2011) (4 mins) (short movie on Thor Bluray — set directly after The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2)
  • Thor (2011-04-28)
    • One-Shot: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” (2011) (4 mins) (short movie on Captain America Bluray — set directly before Thor (although it adds very little and makes more sense to watch afterwards))
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011-08-18)
    • One-Shot: “Agent Carter” (2013) (12 mins) (short movie on Iron Man 3 Bluray — set directly after Captain America)
  • The Avengers (aka “Avengers Assemble”) (2012-04-25)
    • One-Shot: “Item 47” (2012) (12 mins) (short movie on The Avengers Bluray — set directly after The Avengers)

Phase Two

Phase Three

Phase Four

  • Black Widow (November 6, 2020)
  • The Eternals (February 12, 2021)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (May 7, 2021)
  • Untitled third Spider-Man movie (November 5, 2021)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (February 11, 2022)
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022)

Future Movies

  • Black Panther 2 (May 6, 2022)
  • Captain Marvel 2 (July 8, 2022)
  • Untitled Marvel movie (likely Ant-Man 3, October 7, 2022)
  • Blade (TBD)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (TBD)
  • Untitled Fantastic Four film (TBD)

Jupiter Ascending

I watched Jupiter Ascending last weekend. Yes, despite all the extremely low ratings and the warnings to avoid this movie, I went to see it. And what can I say… it was a nice movie. Really.

Don’t get me wrong – it definitely had its faults. Jupiter (played by Mila Kunis) is portrayed as overly naive, much more than she needs to be. She falls for people who want to use her twice, and both times it was clear as daylight what was going to happen.

The pacing and structure was also a little off, especially in the first quarter or so. The introduction of the different parties looking for Jupiter was weird, and it took me a while to understand who was supposed to be the good guys and who was the bad guys. I don’t mean that in the sense of plot twists or deception – that is fine if it fools the audience, even expected. But in this case I think the presentation of the different groups just was not executed well.

But apart from these issues, I did not really think there was something outright terrible about Jupiter Ascending. The dialog was sometimes wooden, but I didn’t expect something that would be winning any Pulitzer Prize soon. The overall plot was not the kind where you later walk out of the cinema and just think that this was the best story, it was just a generic action flick, but that’s what I expected from the trailers.

And what a lot of people really found laughable, the “dog people”… have you never seen fantasy movies before? In this case they even try to explain it semi-scientifically with spliced genes, etc. Sure, that is basically technobabble, but still, for a fantasy action movie that was pretty normal.

To be honest, I enjoyed Jupiter Ascending much more than Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness. Those had gaping plot holes as well all over the place, and a huge legacy to live up to, and in my opinion they failed that spectacularly. Jupiter Ascending is just a random fantasy action movie without any baggage like that.

And: it is gorgeous. It was the best 3D movie I saw, period. Take it for what it is, just don’t expect the next Matrix, and enjoy the ride.

Necessary evils in UX

Among the many blogs I read regularly is Ignore The Code by Lukas Mathis. Most of the times I agree with what he writes on UX, and I generally like his insights. In his latest post “Windows 10: Re-Crappifying Windows 8” I think he comes at the problem from the right angle, but essentially ignores that a lot of people just do not use computers the same way he does, or if they do, they often are not savvy enough to operate them if something doesn’t just work.

I agree that computers should be easy for most tasks – the proverbial list people bring up now usually involves writing letters and emails, surfing the web, listening to music, and stuff like that. And for these people and use cases he is spot on. But then he mentions this:

Managing files requires dedicated features, which is why we’ve gradually moved file management into dedicated apps like iPhoto or iTunes.

No. A thousand times no. iPhoto and iTunes are not for file management. They are for managing photos and music. They are totally removed from files and file management. In iTunes I edit metadata for songs and albums, not for files. And this is totally fine. I used iTunes a lot (since I stopped iTunes Match and started using Sonos at home I start it a lot less than I used to, but still…). But I never used it to manage files, only to manage my music collection. If I wanted to add new files to that collection, I had to put the files into some folders, or otherwise manage the files that held the music. That is ok, but a distinction that doesn’t cease to exist because working just with music is nicer than working with files – but unless we want to deprive people of the ability to add their own music to their iTunes collection, or until ripping a CD works flawlessly with iTunes and doesn’t put my files in c:\Users\Thomas\somewhere, enables me to stream all my music (ripped ages ago, or bought with iTunes or Amazon or Google Play) to my iPhone and my Android handset and my Sonos system just so, then I will have to work with files, manually move them to different systems and copy and link them wherever I need them.

I wish this would just work, but it doesn’t. Wishing for Explorer and Finder to go away does not fix this though, and the numerous requests for help from the less technicallly inclined friends and family members shows me that we are not there yet. Files still need to be managed as files. Until someone comes up with a better system, and all companies and ecosystems follow along, the file manager is here to stay. I will use and iTunes because they make a lot of tasks easier, but for many I still need to manually copy, delete, rename, move, or otherwise manipulate a file. And I need a real file manager to do that.

Apple + IBM Business Apps

This might be big: Apple and IBM just released the first information on their new collaboration into business (read: enterprise) apps for iOS. My initial thought, while scrolling down the overview on Apple’s overview page, was something along the line of… “hm, flight attendants who reschedule flights while in the air? Sure…” But the more I thought about this and the further I scrolled, I just thought this is just the first step – they even mention this being the first wave of apps. And then especially the Telco app is spot on for me: the last three years or so I had several projects implementing SAP Netweaver Mobile solutions for service technicians. Not Telco, but general industry, but still – technicians who have a daily schedule of repairs at customer sites, an inventory, service orders to fulfill… basically the same thing. And this would be huge. Ease of use like the presented iPad screens, with map overview, customer info, installation help in form of tech spec etc… if this ever becomes customizable and can be attached to a backend like an already existing SAP ERP or CRM at a customer site, this would sell like hotcakes. Definitely worthy to keep an eye on!

Passionate Programming

I just read the latest entry in Jeff Atwoods Coding Horror blog, detailing how he went from a very small reading list to the famous blog he now has… and immediately thought, “Yep, you wanted to start writing more often as well…” But then I always either am just too lazy, or find that I do not have anything to write about, neither about my work or something personal… How ironic that the last real physical book was The Passionate Programmer – and I haven’t even started it. Seems I lack the passion right now…

And even that might be something worth writing about. That seems to be a real problem. My last (and sadly, also current) projects at work both kind of burned out the flame I had due to mismanagement, mismatched skills, a bad framework, budget problems, you name it… but I want to rekindle the flames now. I just need to find something to start with. Maybe doing new and fun things in my personal life help, so this week I will get a regular license plate for my motorbike (a 2010 Suzuki Gladius) instead of a seasonal one and start driving again.

Nexus 5 – Unboxing

I just received my Nexus 5 this week (on tuesday to be exact), and took some pictures while unboxing it. The first is rather boring, but Google sent the phone out in a rather small box that just holds the Nexus box itself, nothing more…

The UPS delivered box

…as you can see on the second pic, where I simply opened the outer wrapping:

The opened box

The box of the phone itself is rather bland, or stylish and minimal, take your pick, but it continues the style of previous Nexus devices (I own a 2012 Nexus 7 and a friend of mine ordered her Nexus 4 though me). Good thing there is a Bluetooth logo on the back – I might not have known this phone comes with that technology in this day and age… but I guess that is simply a licensing requirement. Still, it strikes me as rather stupid.

The box: front The box: back

The box itself is just a typical sliding box, the printed blue outer piece contains a simple white inner box with a very plain Google logo in white printed on the lower right corner, and that’s it.

The inner box out of the slider

And surprise! In the box is a nice looking phone, with a thin protective foil on the glass with a “Nexus 5” logo. Since the box is roughly two or three centimeters higher than the phone, Google (or LG) put all the other stuff underneath the phone, with a thin blue piece of cardboard separating the two compartments.

The phone in the box Taking out the phone with its holder The other contents

Included are a charger, a USB cable, the warranty text together with some safety tips in several languages, a single image explaining the power and volume buttons and the plugs, and a tool for opening the tray for the SIM card (Micro SIM, in case you were wondering).

All in all a pretty bland packaging, but that’s what I expected, considering this is a no-frills stock Android experience on the phone itself, which btw simply greets you with a simple Nexus logo on startup, and then starts the simple configuration process by asking you for a language.

First boot Starting the configuration wizard

From then one there was nothing of interest, except that the phone wanted to download an update to Android (around 130 MB) as soon as WiFi was configured, rebooted, and then started over with the initial configuration. It asked for my Google user name, and was simply configured.

One minor hiccup: on my Nexus 7 I have AdBlock installed, and set the tablet to use the local AdBlock proxy. Since Google syncs the network settings it knew to connect to the proxy, but that of course was not yet installed on the phone, so I had to remove the proxy from the network…

And that’s it! I will include some more screenshots from the phone itself, which really has a beautiful screen.