HowTo: Remote Working

I guess we all have meanwhile learned more or less successful how to work from home (or the beach). The all-remote company GitLab Inc. has an helpful and extensive guide on how they are implementing this within their global organization – without a single office. It was inspiring to me especially during the first lockdown of the pandemic, although I thought I had already gained quite some experience during 1.5 yrs working remotely. The subsequent recommendations probably contain also advice originated from GitLab, but are enriched with my personal flavor and learnings. I hope it is useful and shall at least serve as a reminder to myself. I fear there are still some months left to professionalize this even further …

  • Intentionally start and end your work day. For example by a specific ritual, e.g. start with a morning walk, shower, … and end at least by closing your work related applications and their connections when you are done. Otherwise private and work life might mix too much and there won’t be any time for recreation and clearing your mind.
  • “Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.” [according to J.P. Barlow] Not only a helpful advice in remote work, but especially in an isolated environment like home, certain inquiries by your colleagues might appear out of context. If the other person then even catches you in the wrong moment or mood, to have an open, impartial, and collaborative conversation will be a challenge, at least for yourself. Assume that their personal motivation for approaching you is by default meant well and make sure to appreciate it.
  • Do not demonize doing private stuff for and within breaks. While working from home you will most probably be more focused and accordingly exhaust more quickly. Taking a break for doing something completely different like sports, laundry, or just going to the grocery store might at first glance appear improperly. In the end it will spur your creativity and with a refreshed mind you will be more efficient within the same timeframe than forcing you to continue working just for the sake of being on duty.
  • Optimize for asynchronous communication. The frequency of conference (“sync”) calls naturally increases in a remote setting, schedules will overlap, and participants might not always be that focused as they are during in-person meetings. Allow others to follow up offline, at a later point in time, and help to continue where you last left off so that everyones valuable time is invested well. In addition you might want to record important conversations and at least keep detailed minutes that assist to easily catch up. Moreover prefer group conversations over direct messages, as there are always others for whom this is or will become relevant as well.
  • Accept external disturbances during meetings. It is just inevitable to be interrupted in your home environment. Kids, the postman ringing, or unstable infrastructure. Appreciate such unintended breaks, do the best out of it, welcome the young generation or resort the discussion as you anyhow cannot change it. And hey, those interruptions are not that much different to a beamer suddenly breaking down or colleagues bursting into a double-booked conference room?
  • Plan your week and set your priorities pro-actively. Otherwise your work stream will be dictated by allegedly “urgent” concerns popping in and by natural distractions due to your home environment. Better define beforehand what is really important for you to work on. It will be much more easier to resume after uncontrolled interruptions and you always have an overview of where you currently are and what needs to be done next.
  • Electronic mail and communication platforms like Teams, Slack, etc. are asynchronous communication channels. This might come as surprise for some. Do neither feel obliged to immediately reply nor expect a prompt reply. If there is urgency, a direct call is still well suited for instant follow-up and without wasting time by interpreting probably ambiguous text-based chats. In case of conflict, clarify your “service-level agreement” and how to reach you best in case of emergency.
  • Prefer video calls over voice calls. If infrastructure allows, switch on your camera. It will still bring you much closer to your colleagues and add an additional sense for improved interpersonal communication.
  • Fight screen fatigue. Do everything you can to not make you or your counterparts stare on the screen all day long. E.g. when you need to do something creative, better choose pen and paper. While doing a break, do not read the mails or news again on your screen. Better take a walk, enjoy some fresh air, and wide angle view. When you give a training/workshop/lesson, frequently enable participants to turn away from the conference session to do some self-responsible tasks. In general reduce frequency and duration of meetings to a minimum.

In case you want to look from a statistical perspective on home office, Atlasssian Inc. has analyzed the first months after people started to work primarily from home. The company is offering popular workflow solutions that are mainly used within software development, e.g. ever heard of Jira? Their study is a useful sample of remote work from within the software industry. Surprisingly employees still kept working although they are not at the office any longer. The author is even slightly worried of our work-life balance: “Proof our work-life balance is in danger (but there’s still hope)” by Arik Friedman.

(stupid white old) man on a parking lot

Reports have become rare in which drivers were misled by their car’s navigation system and accidentally slipped into a river, expecting a not yet build bridge or desperately ended up on a steep mountain trail, non-suited for anything wider than a goat. In sum you would feel save to assume that nowadays route-based guidance has improved significantly and at the same time humans have learned to not always trust the machines. Most not all.

Continue reading (stupid white old) man on a parking lot

Apollo in Sync

The Apollo space flight program is long history, even the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 was already celebrated more than a year ago. Todays headlines in spaceflight are either written by a psychologically conspicuous president building a Space Force or a pot smoking business magnate launching electric cars in space and polluting the night sky (and earth orbit) with his up to 42,000 Internet satellites.

In contrast Ben Feist (Homepage | Twitter) has done phenomenal work in reviving the Apollo fever. Or how else can you call it when you are able to replay some of the original missions in real time – second by second from start to end – whilst having the ability to switch interactively between all mission control audio channels, public commentaries, and various video streams. In addition the multimedia content has been enriched with photographs, transcripts, and many more details. All available sources have been carefully restored, synchronized, and packed into an intuitive and original user interface.

Its seems that all of this fabulous work has taken years. Ben Feist’s first blog post describing the idea is of 2012. The first public release was announced three years later, adding additional features in 2016. Oh and that was only about Apollo 17, not to mention Apollo 11 and Apollo 13. In the end it seems to have brought him a job with NASA and collaborators like Stephen Slater, David Charney, Chris Bennett, Arnfinn Holderer, and Robin Wheeler.

Reading the statistics of the included real-time elements for e.g. Apollo 11 is just stunning: All mission control film footage, all TV transmissions and onboard film footage, 2,000 photographs, 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio, 240 hours of space-to-ground audio, all onboard recorder audio, 15,000 searchable utterances, …

Pro tip: Make sure that you do not have any further plans for the day, before you click on

Aquanaute extraordinaire

Wer kennt nicht Jacques-Yves Cousteau und zumindest einen seiner legendären Film wie “Die schweigende Welt”? Der tauchende Biologe und Naturphotograph Laurent Ballesta, Jahrgang 1974 aus Montpellier, war mir dagegen bisher unbekannt. Vor einiger Zeit hatte ich bereits, aber unbewusst, einen Film von ihm gesehen, der mich bleibend fasziniert hat: “Antarktis – Die Reise der Pinguine”. Seine weiteren Expeditionen in die Unterwasserwelt stehen diesem Werk in nichts nach und es würde schwer fallen, sich für eines als das Beste zu entscheiden. Allesamt zeigen atemberaubende Bilder, schildern fesselnde Erlebnisse und liefern detaillierte Einblicke in die besuchten Lebensräume und Ökosysteme. Am Ende jeden Abenteuers hat man das Gefühl, als müsste man selbst erst den ein oder anderen Deko-Stopp einlegen, um überhaupt wieder in die reale Welt zurück zu finden. Mit anderen Worten – nicht nur in der aktuellen Zeit – Prädikat besonders wertvoll und schwerstens zu empfehlen!

Zur Zeit hat ARTE in der Sendereihe “Die Tiefen der Ozeane” einige Filme von bzw. mit Laurent Ballesta im Angebot, die bis zu ihrer Depublikation nachfolgend verlinkt sind:

aus “Planète Méditerranée” (c) Laurent Ballesta

See also:

Schwedischer AVL-Baum

Textuelle Beschreibungen von Algorithmen sind berüchtigt dafür, eher trocken und schwer verständlich zu sein. Aufbauanleitungen eines schwedischen Möbelhauses erfreuen dagegen – zumeist – durch wortlose und illustrative Benutzerführung. Warum also nicht auch mal eine Verfahrensanweisung in dieser intuitiven Form aufbereiten?

Das haben sich zwei Informatiker der TU Braunschweig gedacht und dies gleich mal für die gängigsten Berechnungsvorschriften in die Tat umgesetzt. Zum Beispiel der AVL-Baum:

“Bälänce Tree” von Sándor P. Fekete und Sebastian Morr (CC by-nc-sa 4.0)

Weitere Anleitungen und Details:

Open Source Legal Notes

In his post “Is it time to revise the Open Source Definition?” the legal council of Red Hat Richard Fontana argues that the Open Source Definition (OSD) might need some review and improvement:

  • Aiming at OSD #7: Patents should be addressed to prevent recent (mis)interpretations that Open Source licenses are “Copyright only”.
  • Aiming at OSD #9: Unwanted licensing effects on non-related software should be excluded upfront to prevent any future disputes like about the SSPL.
  • Freedom 0 of the Free Software Definition – “to run the program as you wish” – should be included in the OSD for reasons of clarity.

The Software Freedom Conservancy received a $100,000 grant by the Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) for GPL enforcement.

A few days ago the oral hearing of the lawsuit between Oracle and Google were held at the U.S. Supreme Court, after it had been delayed by COVID-19. McCoy Smith shares his observations and interpretation in a detailed post “Oracle/Google” at Lex Pan Law. The litigation is over the copyrightability and if so infringement of certain parts of Java (mainly APIs) that were used within Android. If Oracle wins it will have significant impact on the whole software world and especially Open Source. Ultimately any API (use) would become subject to copyright.

Switching from Lightroom to Darktable on macOS

I started my digital photography life with a Nikon D80 and Lightroom 1.0 quite a while ago (2007). When Adobe stopped selling copies and only provided subscription options was one of the moments it became very clear that an alternative is needed. Let’s not talk about Lightroom CC, its unstable desktop app, and a recent user nightmare.

To be independent from the business needs of a company, the only option is to go for an alternative that is licensed under an Open Source license. With that preference in mind and if it is about RAW processing, you have the choice between digiKam, RawTherapee, and darktable.

I was following darktable since a few years. The 2.x versions have not really been working for me. In contrast the releases of 3.0 and 3.2 have been milestones in growing darktable into a serious and easy to use – not to say even more mature – alternative to Lightroom and it is time to do the final switch. Now or never.

To share it upfront: I did not get disappointed nor frustrated by this decision. I am just wondering, why the hell did I not switch earlier?

Continue reading Switching from Lightroom to Darktable on macOS