Interests

This page is intended to give a little insight into what things I am
generally interested in, and why. Well basically it is maybe only a
random collection of ramblings about what goes on in my life.

Computer Science

Programming and computer science is a passion of mine since my
early youth. I got pulled into this by articles of children’s
magazines in the GDR (at the age of around 9-10). They had very nice
introductions into programming and computers in general back then,
despite the non-availability of computers to average people. So I
mostly ‘programmed’ on paper at this time. Around the age of 12 I
first got my hands on a real computer. This has been a great
experience. I attended courses at school back then where I wrote my
first little programs.

At the age of 15 I got my first own computer, a C64 (which was kindof
obsolete already at that time). Now I was able to learn some more
in-depth things like assembly language and graphics programming. I was
very proud of writing a mandelbrot generator. Unbelievable today, I
let the computer calculate for hours (days even), only to get some
funky graphics out of it. But it teached me some interesting things,
like, how to use the floppy CPU as coprocessor or how to implement
fixed point arithmetics in assembly language. There were also a couple
of interesting low level tricks to artificially increase the max
resolution (320×200) or number of colors (16, with only 4 usable in
one bitmap at one time) with which I could spend my time.

Nowadays my interest in computer science can be found mainly in two
areas, graphics programming and algorithms/data structures (which, of
course, overlap). I very much enjoy to learn or find myself
interesting solutions to difficult and/or exiting problems. I guess it
is sometimes very hard for my girlfriend to live on my side, when a
problem is nagging me. I find it hard to rest when a problem is not
solved. I think I need to learn how to ‘switch off’ my thinking
sometimes to allow myself to focus on the real world. I find it
interesting from a psychological point of view that I have most good
ideas after not thinking about it at all. That’s why I’m looking for
distraction when I’m stuck with a problem. But this does not really
belong here…

Music

Music is an integral part of my life. I enjoy singing and playing
guitar and other instruments very much (although I haven’t found a way
to actual composing yet). I used to play in a band a while ago, but
this got disrupted by the birth of my son. My hope is that I’ll find
someone to play with soon. There’s quite a couple of different styles
of music that I like, but the most important ones are Blues, Rock and
Folk Music.

Free Software

My first confrontation with Free Software was back in 1998 when I
bought a box of Suse Linux (5.x I think). At this time I really had no
clue what Free Software means, after all, the box was not free at all
for me. At this time I was very unhappy with the general direction
that Microsoft was going with Windows. DOS was kind of ok for me
(although it was worse then most stuff I’ve seen on other computers
before), but I didn’t like how Windows took control over the computer
away from me. With Linux I immediately felt warm and like home. It was
a similar feeling like in the old C64 days, beeing very close to the
actual computer. Later on (when internet access became available) I
started trying Debian Linux, then FreeBSD and NetBSD while I let loose
completely of Windows (that was around 2002 I think). Nowadays I’m
more or less settled with Ubuntu and Fedore boxes.

Playing and working with these OSes naturally brought me close to
the more general ideas of Free and Open Source Software. These have
been elaborated already elsewhere and
I am not going to repeat this here. Recently Robert Schuster posted an

interesting
article
which sums up the point that I also see here. Beeing able
to program a computer seems like some kind of magic to most
people. And indeed it is a very special talent pulling together
creativity, knowledge and technical understanding. And it represents a
certain kind of power. Generally we expect from people who have a
certain power (think of politicians, doctors, architects) to use their
power in a responsible way. In my opinion people should expect this
from software or hardware developers as well. To me, the Free Software
way of life represents one way to show responsibility. This (besides
the aspect of having fun in hacking) is why I contribute to Free
Software projects, most notably GNU Classpath, Escher and my own pet
project Xebece. However,
I’d like to distance myself from unrealistic zealotry. I generally
respect proprietary software businesses as well as Free Software
communities and businesses. The world is not black and white. Only
because a few large proprietary software corporations have very
arguable business practices doesn’t mean that proprietary software is
generally evil. The line to be drawn here is orthogonal to the Free
vs. proprietary software debate. My opinion is that Free Software is
generally a better thing because I very much value my freedom. Others
might not value their freedom as high as me (especially when it comes
to software) and I respect that. However I have no respect at all for
business practices that effectively push the users (== the customer!)
against the wall (almost treating them like criminals) to squeeze
every cent out of them.

<!–

Life and anthroposophy

My interest in anthroposophy
began around 1999 when I started to value organic food. I began to
realize that fast food and, expanding the meaning of this, 'fast
life' isn’t really it. If I have to find one thing that I deeply
believe in, then this would probably be ‘Life’. This is such an
incredible wonder that it is really hard to grasp. Only looking and
observing any living thing can sometimes give me the creeps. Well, I
naturally never felt very well while killing things (like nasty
insects). But at one point it began to occur to me that the
‘industrial’ way of life is building in many ways on destruction of
life. This can be understood literally, think of killing people in
wars to get resources like oil or poisoning our environment to
artificially ‘increase’ food production or to drive around). This can
also be understood in a less dramatic way (but is equally
important). Think of child work in 3rd world countries that guarantees
that you can buy cheap clothes in H&M.

Naturally, these feelings of responsibility were amplified since
the birth of my son. At an age of 3 we decided that he should visit a
kindergarten, and for several reasons a ‘Waldorfkindergarten’ near us
was the best fit. This brought my attention closer to
anthroposophy. My relation to anthroposophy can best be described as
‘interest’. I like to concern myself with it, I think there are a lot
of interesting ideas, but I keep myself in a critical distance. It
seems like there are several people that take everything from Rudolf
Steiner as The One Thruth, which is 1. bullshit, 2. not his original
intent anyway (he always emphasized and encouraged people to think
for themselves
). (Thinking about it, this somehow resembles the
relationship to Free Software and Richard Stallman, and indeed there
seem to be a couple of parallels here.)

Having said that, and to conclude this paragraph, I am trying to
work on a more wholistic way of living. To describe it in very few
words this means to me, that I take no more than I can give. And it
also means to me that I want to explore not only the material world,
but also the emotional and spiritual world (both of the latter have
always come too short in my past life, and in fact are not
exactly easy to discover). This probably sounds like I’m really out in
space, but this is (hopefully 😉 )not the case. I’m not a holy and
don’t want to be. Heck, I don’t want to spoil my life with a bad
conscience when I eat a Döner, when I buy cheap clothes or drive
around my car just for the fun of it.

–>

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