Stuff that doesn't matter

Long time no blog

Monday, 12 December 2011 | Private | comments

Oh my, I have not blogged for a long time. Need to fix that. Basically, I have been sick for the last three weeks. My family and I seem to take turns in getting sick (and to contaminate each other).

So I missed my chairs Christmas dinner, where Stefan and Fotini prepared all the delicious food themselves this year, a pity.... I am also close to declaring email bankruptcy, not having read my private email account for something close to 2 weeks now. Not mentioning, not following all the exciting things that I tend to read.

Things are getting a bit better, and we able to celebrate Johanna's second birthday today. I hope the next year will have her develop further and catching up with all the stuff that kids usually do, like learning to walk and talk...

On a side note, Oliver really felt sick this morning and he said when we ate Brithday cake, he said to me:

"Daddy, could you please hold my cake? I need to vomit." (which he finally did not do). Now, that is polite, isn't it?

Coop Supercard ist nicht super

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 | Private, credit card, Rant, Coop | comments

Ganz klar, eine Kreditkarte ist heutzutage unerlässlich falls man zum Beispiel einen Mietwagen kaufen, im nicht-EU Ausland reisen, oder etwas im Internet bezahlen will (Click & Pay und wie sie alle heissen sind nicht wirklich besser).

Also habe ich auch eine, die COOP Supercard. Aber nicht mehr lange. Denn das Geschäftsgebahren des Kartenherausgebers kommt sehr nahe an Abzocke ran, und da reagiere ich allergisch.

Es gibt keine Möglichkeit online seine Käufe einzusehen, d.h. man muss bis zur monatlichen Abrechnung warten um die Posten überprüfen zu können. Nicht wirklich praktisch, aber auch noch kein Killer.

Aber die Rechnungen werden so spät verschickt, dass sie erst 11 Tage(!) nach dem aufgedruckten Rechnungsdatum überhaupt erst bei uns im Briefkasten ankommen. Dazu kommt, dass man eine Zahlungsfrist von nur 20 Tagen hat, und eine automatische Abbuchung bei Kunden der PostFinance nicht möglich ist. Zu den Fristen sagt der Kartenherausgeber AECS:

Zinsen werden erst dann belastet, wenn der vollständige Rechnungsbetrag nicht innerhalb der vorgesehenen Frist von 20 Tagen beglichen wird. Zinsen werden über den gesamten Rechnungsbetrag bis zum Zahlungseingang berechnet. Bitte beachten Sie, dass es 3-5 Arbeitstage dauern kann, bis eine Zahlung bei uns eintrifft. Dies ist im schweizerischen Zahlungsverkehr durchaus üblich.

Rechnungsdatum + 11 Tage + 3-5 Arbeitstage Überweisung lässt mir effektiv zwischen 2-6 Tage Zeit die Überweisung in Gang zu setzen. Was ich nicht wirklich immer schaffe, denn unter der Woche komme ich zu so etwas kaum. D.h. es stehen regelmässig ca. 2CHF Überziehungszinsen auf meiner Rechnung.

Die Angabe der Zinsen ist allerdings so intransparent, dass nicht klar ist für welchen Zeitraum oder welche Summe die Zinsen gelten, diesen Monat standen Almut auf einmal 20CHF Überziehungsgebühren zusätzlich zu den Zinsen auf der Rechnung. ES REICHT!

Es ist unglaublich die Rechnung erst 11 Tage nach dem aufgedruckten Rechnungsdatum zu haben und am 20. Tag sofort mit den Überziehungszinsen bestraft zu werden! Es ist schlecht, dass die Rechnung nicht transparent zeigt, für welchen Zeitraum und welche Summe sie Überziehungszinsen verlangt. Und es ist nicht zeitgemäss dem Kunden den Onlineeinblick in seine Einkäufe (oder Rückzahlungen) zu verwehren. Ein Anruf beim Kundenservice half nichts, also kündigen Almut und ich meine SuperCard jetzt. Ciao.

P.S: Dazu wurden die Bonus-Kickbackzahlungen auf 0.33% gesenkt (alle anderen haben 0.5%).

An afternoon at Google (ZH)

Monday, 31 October 2011 | Private, Google | comments

Wow, I wish I could have taken pictures! Today, Frida, Martin's girl friend, took us for a visit at Google's Zurich office. And, oh boy, our own offices feel so dull now...

The offices itself are actually pretty generic and crammed with loads of people sharing a single room, and very little space for privacy. What makes the facilities so special is actually the space between the offices.

The fact that you have subsidized hair-cutter and massage facilities are probably not so special nowadays, but to have fireman's poles between floors that can be used by employees is special. Most of the poles that I have observed seemed to end in some kind of cafeteria or lounge which exist on any floor. Quick access to food is also provided by the slide which ends right in the middle of the main cafeteria, where we had lunch.

Lunch is provided for free to employees, at least I could not detect any kind of billing system. It was a bit of a special lunch in any case, as the kitchen celebrated Halloween, and we had chopped of feet, and liver from the kitchen chef, with bloody ice cream. Yummy :-).

In fact, food remained at the center of interest during that visit: There are plenty of lounges, each one themed differently (and often to match each floor's theme): We saw the Sky lounge in floor 7, overlooking Zurich, the Djungle lounge which has a true rainforesty feeling to it, with small seating spots in the wilderness. Any "ivy-league university library" lounge complete with leather fouteuils (bar the selection of computer books in the shelves). A tube-station-themed cafe, and plenty others, plus a set of "microkitchens" all over the place. What all of these facilities had in common was really nice espresso and coffee machines (as admitted by our connoisseur Stefan), plus fridges full of coke, Ben&Jerries, and Mövenpick ice crea & other snacks available for free. The "library" offers fresh bread and breakfast all day round. I would certainly grow fat there! :-).

TO work off the calories, you could always go to the gym, or the sports club for a round of table tennis. Having eaten too much, one might also enjoy the "water lounge": a cool, quiet, dark room, with one wall consisting of aquariums, and opposite a row of massage chairs and bath tubs to lie in (with styropor foam for a comfy lie in).

To compensate for the non-private, shared office space, there is plenty of possibilities for small meetings: each floor sports "phone booths", ie old skiing gondolas, decorated after the floor's theme. We enjoyed especially the Roger Federer cabin, whose seats had been covered with sliced tennis balls, and the soccer gondola, covered with fake grass carpets.

TV screens in these lounges display the status of various things: if daily builds of projects succeeded and whatnot.

A lot of tiny things show that the place has purposefully been decorated with a nod towards playfullness: two hidden mice roam the tube-cafe, the 20% room which has a "binary" carpet sports a Google logo in one corner, the "tech stops" (support facilities) are decorated with surf boards and have a relaxed look about them (being situated next to a lounge might help).

One of my favorite rooms was the cinema... A presentation room, with about 40 chairs, none of which looked the same. There were thrones, small sofas, fouteills, plush hairs, in all colors and sizes, and it looked amazing.

Overall, I suppose it is OK to cram people in shared offices if you offer social spaces to retreat to, meat, eat, and work in quiet.

It was an amazing visit (Thanks Frida), and I returned with a stomach full of Espresso and Ben&Jerries, and a head full of inspiration, awestricken from that trip. Can I apply to work at Google now?

P.S. And yes, there is the mythical 20% area, in which employees get to work on some extra projects, should they chose to do so (and have it granted). When we were there, only one lady with her dog was working there though (seen a couple of dogs there, BTW).

HTC sues Apple using Patents Google bought from Motorola

Thursday, 08 September 2011 | patent war, Motorola, Patents, HTC, Google, Apple | comments

It would not be worth mentioning that two mobile phone manufacturers sue each other. They have been doing this in such complicated ways, that the charts visualizing this became art itself. The latest one is interesting though.

It has been mostly speculated that Google bought Motorola for its patents, although some have argued that Google did it for the hardware part too. The patents part can be confirmed at least now. Google acquired around 17k patents (including applications), and it apparently has transferred some to beleaguered HTC which allegedly already has to pay up to $15 per Android handset to Microsoft (which seems to demand $15 alone), Apple and other 'innovators'.

Now Bloomberg reports (via LWN) that HTC has filed a new lawsuit against Apple, claiming that it infringes on nine patents. Patents that originate from Palm and Motorola, and which Google has acquired over the last year. Google has handed those patents to HTC, and they are firing back at Apple immediately. Am I the only one whose head starts to spin, trying to understand this?

It is no secret that I think the patent system is somewhat broken as it is. If all patent litigations were adjudicated in 2008 the total cost would have been $31,224,000,000. (nice infographics included). We live in a world where a Firm can sue Gap, Dell, eBay, Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Barnes&Noble, Microsoft, and Verizon in the same suit because of a patent to recommend alternative products before a deal has been done. I mean car dealers have been using this method in real life since the car was invented.

The situation is especially bad in software, as many patents are vague and broadly specified so that it is unclear what they cover until actual litigation ensues. It also perverts the original intention of patents to disclose knowledge so that the invention can be used by the public after it has run out.

It has been argued, that patents are needed for innovation occurs, but a study has shown that the software industry does not seem to be the main benefactor of software patents itself:

that the broad software industry (SIC 737) accounted for only 11 percent of software patent grants to public firms in 1996 and 17 percent in 2006. The prepackaged software industry account for 2.8 percent and 9.8 percent in those years respectively. Thus the software industry still accounts for a small portion of software patent grants, although that portion has increased over the last decade. Most software patents still go to non-software firms. -Bessen 2011 via Techdirt blog post


Friday, 26 August 2011 | Rant,Preise | comments

Es ist nicht mehr lustig was Firmen in der Schweiz verlangen. Ich kann verstehen, wenn schweizer Produkte teuerer sind, aber wenn ausländische Versandhäuser oder Produzenten unterschiedliche Preise von bis zu 140% MEHR für das gleiche Produkt nehmen (kürzlich bei Pampers und Nivea Crémes getestet), dann ist das nicht mehr zu vertreten.

Das identische Produkt (selbe Bestellnummer) kostet bei Conrad in Deutschland 76.95€ (=88 CHF) und bei Conrad in der Schweiz 139,95 CHF.

Das heisst, das gleiche Produkt ist locker mal 52 CHF oder 60% teurer.

Das übliche Argument ist dann höhere Lagerhaltungs-, Transport-, und Personalkosten, sowie ortsübliche Preise ("Because we can!") bzw. andersherum, ist D günstiger weil der deutsche Kunde sehr preissensitiv wäre.

Ich verstehe das schweizer Produkt wegen höherer Kosten teurer sein können/müssen. Aber wenn es das selbe ausländische Produkt ist, dann ist ein Unterschied von 60% nicht erklärlich. Im Preise inklusive sind in D 19% Mehrwertsteuer und in der Schweiz nur 8%, d.h. Conrad verdient sowieso mehr in CH. Noch dazu kommt dass ich in der Schweiz noch 6€ zusätzlich für die ja ach so höreren Versandkosten bezahle.


CH: 8,95 CHF + Verpackungspauschale 3,95 CHF = 12.90CHF  (=11.28€)
D: € 5,95

Macht total: Preis ohne Mehrwertsteuer und inklusive Versandkosten: 80.74CHF in Deutschland und 142.48CHF in der Schweiz. Nicht mit mir, Conrad. Ich bestelle nach Deutschland und importiere das selber.

Carrots and Rainbows

Tuesday, 23 August 2011 | opensource, Research, publication, ETH | comments

Around 4 years ago, we started working on a paper that contained a literature review on individuals motivation to contribute to open source software, concluding that the frameworks being used were too narrow to capture all aspects of what was happening. We concluded that open source software development needs to be seen as a social practice, and created a framework that will allow a more holistic exploration of the interplay of motivations, practices, and institutions supporting (but also constraining and corrupting) OSS. The framework draws on the work on Social Practices by the moral philosopher McIntyre.

We submitted the article to MISQ, and 3 years and four(!) major revisions later, we just got accepted. The editors and reviewers were giving us a hard time, but they also helped to improve the paper significantly as a result of the hard work that was put into it.

May I proudly present:

Carrots and Rainbows: Motivation and Social Practice in Open Source Software Development

by Georg von Krogh, Stefan Haefliger, Sebastian Spaeth, and Martin W. Wallin

The preprint abstract is already available online on their website, if you are interested in the full paper, let me know.


Open source software (OSS) is a social and economic phenomenon that raises fundamental questions about the motivations of contributors to information systems development. Some developers are unpaid volunteers who seek to solve their own technical problems, while others create OSS as part of their employment contract. For the past 10 years, a substantial amount of academic work has theorized about and empirically examined developer motivations. We review this work and suggest considering motivation in terms of the values of the social practice in which developers participate. Based on the social philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre, we construct a theoretical framework that expands our assumptions about individual motivation to include the idea of a long-term, value-informed quest beyond short-term rewards. This “motivation–practice” framework depicts how the social practice and its supporting institutions mediate between individual motivation and outcome. The framework contains three theoretical conjectures that seek to explain how collectively elaborated standards of excellence prompt developers to produce high-quality software, change institutions, and sustain OSS development. From the framework we derive six concrete propositions and suggest a new research agenda on motivation in OSS.

UPDATE: And it is finally officially out in this June issue.

Patently absurd

Monday, 15 August 2011 | patents,google | comments

The current patent war in the mobile phone space is absurd and obscene (this cool chart visualizes that everyone is suing everyone).

I am all for innovation, but we are living in a world in which Microsoft earns more from Android phones than they do from Windows phones.

Now Google has agreed to buy the mobile phone division from Motorola for $12.5 billions (yes BILLIONS). The main reason they are doing so is to get access to the vast patent portfolio that Motorola has. That gives GOOG ammunition to defend itself and Android manufacturers from others that are aggressively building patent portfolios in this area.

Interestingly enough, the Motorola CEO had announced just 4 days ago that they might be using their patent portfolio in a more offensive manner against Android rivals. A move to increase the sales price? Most likely.

Google, which had only around 660 patents or so until recently, many of them search-related, had been attempting to gather a patent portfolio for quite some time. They unsuccessfully bid for the patents of bankrupt Nortel (in typically geeky manner, they bid odd sums that represent weird constants, eg. the number π in billion dollars). A portfolio of around nearly 800 patents from Novell had already gone to a Microsoft-Apple-EMC-Oracle consortium and the 6,000 Nortel patents went for $4.5bn to a consortium of Apple, Microsoft, RIM, and Sony (among others).

Google had complained about unfair market dominance in the first deal already and the anti-trust agencies had modified the conditions of the deal. The Nortel patent deal increased the pressure from Apple and Microsoft on Google to build up their own portfolio. It is said that Android handset makers are already paying between $5 and $15 per handset to Microsoft, and possibly to other patent holders too.

Patents are supposed to stimulate innovation. But a world in which a 5-year old can patent a way to swing on a swing, is clearly insane and patents fail to work. Academics that are real patent experts, such as Jim Bessen, who have done studies on this agree.

P.S. Why in the world does everyone and his dog has to cite Florian Mueller (I'm not linking there) as the patent expert uncovering important issues. I know that activists and lobbyists can be experts too, but the clear lack of transparency and obvious bias is unsettling.

P.P.S. This deal will make Google the largest supplier of TV set-top boxes.

Dit un Dat

Thursday, 11 August 2011 | uncategorized | comments

Ich lebe noch! Hier "dit un dat":

  • Urlaub in Spiekeroog war schön. Es war lustig meinen Flurkollegen Volker Hoffmann auf der Insel zu treffen. Auch wenn wir insgesamt 2,000km mit dem Auto runtergeschrummelt haben, ging alles erstaunlich gut mit den Kindern. Warum muss Johanna nur nachts immer noch so viel schreien?

  • Es tut gut wieder in Dübendorf zu sein. "Zu hause" ahh...

  • Ab heute abend haben wir ein finnisches Au Pair, Katariina. Sie wird wohl aktiv bloggen.

  • Ich will mich an der Uni Zürich für eine Professur bewerben. Cross thumbs!

  • Wie ich benutzt Linus Torvalds auch XFCE, da er GNOME3 crappy finded:

    "I'm using Xfce. I think it's a step down from gnome2, but it's a huge step up from gnome3. Really."

Kopenhagen Airport

Sunday, 10 July 2011 | uncategorized | comments

I had planned to write about my conference trip to Tallinn (nice), and meeting of friends such as Christina Raasch (also nice), but it turned out to become a rant on Kopenhagen Airport (not nice).

I arrived at gate A15 and had to take my connecting flight from gate A14, right next to it. However, I also needed to see a transfer desk in order to be checked in for the connecting flight.

In order to get there you need to walk down the whole row of gates, through the whole shopping area (coincidence?) and to the "Transfer center". All in all about 10 minutes of walking (1 way). Way can't they have a transfer desk where it is actually needed? Or a checking machine at the gates? All I needed was to checking. But that's not all.

I had a flight booked with SAS, the connecting flight was an SAS flight operated by Swiss. I queued at the SAS checkin counter and waited: "No, this is an SAS flight, but operated by Swiss, so you have to go to the next row of counters where they handle Swiss flights?" What the...? (If I had had to queue for a long time, I would have been seriously pissed by now. As it was, I was only moderately pissed) So I wondered down to the other counter row, helpfully labeled as "Novia" (they didn't bother to write Swiss anywhere). The clerk asked me what flight and I told him SAS 3507 to Zurich. He "ahh, SAS, you'll have to go to the other row for that". At this point in time I was ready to cut off heads, if they only had allowed weaponery in this area. I insisted, he checked me in, and I walked 10 minutes back to where I had started my journey.

I am just glad, I had enough time for changing and the counter queues were short. Otherwise this could have been a nasty Kopenhagen airport experience...