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This is the home-page of Karl Voit.

On this page you can see the latest blog updates. For further articles, please use the search bar or navigate through the blue tags. My recommendations are pim, privacy, or security.

I recommend any decent RSS/Atom aggregator to get notified on blog updates.

Most recent articles or updates:

2020-11-23: Moving from OnePlus5 to Pixel 4a Smartphone

I got myself a new Google Pixel 4a smartphone (running Android 11) which will replace my three year old OnePlus 5 which is still running Android 9 (OxygenOS 9.0.11) although the OTA upgrade to Android 10 should have been rolled out by now.

The OnePlus 5 is still working. Battery life has declined but more than enough for one day, camera is still great, I could easily live with the internal storage space, no scratches or reasons to replace it.

However, I chose to replace it because of the issues reported in the "Disadvantages" section of my review article on the OnePlus 5 which also explains why OnePlus is not an option for me as a brand any more.

The same article also mentions my thoughts on mobile phone requirements. You can even read more about my thoughts on an ideal smartphone.

This is a personal blog article which does not try to compete with the many review articles about this phone out there. Here are some things that came up during the decision and setup phase of the Pixel 4a I've got for a week now: device choice, cost perspective, notable features and a few issues worth mentioning that I have found so far.

Read the whole article ...

2020-11-22: The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done

The New Yorker featured an article "The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done" by Cal Newport.

It's an article that resonates quite well with my personal point of view although I am unsure if I will come to the same conclusions.

Either way, it's a PIM-related article that you have to read.

He spans a nice productivity optimization story that starts with Peter Drucker (the term "knowledge work"), jumps to the personal journey of Merlin Mann (43 Folders, Inbox Zero, Hipster PDA) and embraces the GTD method by David Allen.

The great thing about the article is that it also mentions the downside of this "Productivity pr0n": somehow the work needs to be done. Being an efficient knowledge worker may lead to a dread-mill where external work input is unthrottled for too long.

Another aspect the article covers is the tradeoff between self-organization and independence versus being managed by peers.

In any case, the article is well worth your time if you're interested in PIM or self-management in general.

2020-11-21: Don't Contribute Anything Relevant in Web Forums Like Reddit

If you're, for example, contributing to a reddit thread about something which is irrelevant or anything with only a short-term relevance, this article does not apply to you right now.

However, as soon as you're helping somebody solving an interesting issue, summarize your experiences with something or write anything that might be cool to be around in a couple of years as well, you do provide potential high-value content. My message to all those authors is: don't use web-based forums.

TL;DR: all of the content of closed, centralized services will be lost in the long run. Choose the platform you contribute to wisely now instead of learning through more large data loss events later-on.

The longer version is worth your time:

Read the whole article ...

2020-11-12: The Average Price Per Month for My Smartphones so Far (2020-11 edition)

This is the second instance of my smart phone cost analysis which started with this article in 2019-10. Please do read it first because I only mention updates worth mentioning in this article here.

The current history of my Android smartphones as of 2020-11 after buying a Pixel 4a (neglecting inflation):

Smartphone From Cost Years €/Month Notes
HTC Magic [2009-12-04 Fri] 230 1.5 13.00 2nd hand price
HTC Desire [2011-05-26 Thu] 410 2.4 14.01
Nexus 5 [2013-11-01 Fri] 399 3.8 8.67
OnePlus 5 [2017-09-01 Fri] 200 3.2 5.23 company co-funded
Pixel 4a [2020-11-07 Sat] 340 2.8 10.00
[2023-09-07 Thu] replaced after average duration

Compared to the previous article, I notice that my average cost per month will probably be higher with the Pixel 4a due to the higher price as long as I do not use it for more than the average mobile device usage time so far. Therefore, I hope to use it much longer than the OnePlus 5 in order to drop the cost per month even more. At least for software updates, I should be safe as long as possible. Google just released the phone and it will get the longest period of update support compared to other Android phone brands.

With the latest update, the total sum spent on mobile phone hardware is 1579€ which translates to 7.91€ per month. I've spend as much money on all of my five smartphones as some people spend on one iPhone these days.

2020-11-12: The Average Price Per Month for My Smartphones so Far (2019-10 edition)

Update 2020-11-12: This article holds the numbers for 2020-11

A few facts on the history of my Android smartphones so far are summarized in the following table (neglecting inflation):

Smartphone From Cost Years €/Month Notes
HTC Magic [2009-12-04 Fri] 230 1.5 13.00 2nd hand price
HTC Desire [2011-05-26 Thu] 410 2.4 14.01
Nexus 5 [2013-11-01 Fri] 399 3.8 8.67
OnePlus 5 [2017-09-01 Fri] 200 2.1 7.77 company co-funded
[2019-10-24 Thu] If I'd replace it today

Out of curiosity, I played with the numbers.

Read the whole article ...

2020-10-26: Empfehlenswerte Erweiterungen für den Rasenmäherroboter Gardena R40Li

Ergänzend zu meinem Erfahrungsbericht zum Rasenmäherroboter möchte ich hier noch kurz erwähnen, dass ich inzwischen zwei Erweiterungen der Hardware vorgenommen habe, die sich aus äußerst empfehlenswert herausgestellt haben.

Read the whole article ...

2020-10-26: The Men Who Invent Fictional Languages

I just finished listening to a podcast episode by Omega Tau which is called "276 – Linguistics, Conlangers and Game Of Thrones’ Dothraki". David J. Peterson gets interviewed. He invents artificial languages for fun and profit. It was his work that brought the Dothraki language and the Valyrian language to life for the TV show Game of Thrones.

Besides the references to the TV show, this episode is very interesting and I've learned many things. Most of them are things I never was aware of they exist in context of written and spoken languages.

As for so many episodes by Omega Tau: my recommendation!

2020-10-25: Managing Digital Files (e.g., Photographs) in Files and Folders

Managing digital files is mostly done in an ad hoc way. People are collecting files on their computers and using folder hierarchies that grow organically. This does not scale well when it comes to retrieval success. Looking for a specific file is a task that often does not result in finding the information or it requires some level of frustration.

I'm somebody who has spent many years with personal organization schemes. I tried all kinds of tools and methods. I changed my personal file management concept multiple times in order to minimize file curation effort, maximize consistency and retrieval success. For a couple of years, I was a professional researcher for this topic, writing a PhD thesis on a new file management method that tries to overcome the limitations of the desktop metaphor of our desktops. Scientific results from peers, my own findings and methods from this PhD project had a huge influence on the method I developed afterwards.

This article is explaining the concept I developed and which I am using on a daily basis. I'm using digital photographs as an use-case example. However, the method described is not about image files only.

My method consists of multiple ingredients:

  1. My simple folder hierarchy.
  2. A file name convention including tags.
  3. A set of self-written tools that minimizes my personal effort as much as possible.
  4. Advanced information retrieval features that you can't find anywhere else like TagTrees.

If you don't want to read this long article about my method now, you might find motivation to do so afterwards by taking a look at this online demo of some features of the tools involved. It doesn't explain my method at all but it should transport some aspects from a practical view. This might give you enough curiosity to come back here and read the rest on how to combine those features to an efficient method.

Further more, here is a 45 minute talk I gave at Linuxtage Graz 2018 presenting the workflows and tools mentioned in this article: (alternative video hosted on media.CCC.de)

You will find following sections below. Bold section names are not related to the example use-case of photographs only:

For the example use-case, the story goes like this: I am a passionate photographer when being on vacation or whenever I see something beautiful. This way, I collected many JPEG files over the past decades. Here, I describe how I manage my digital photographs while avoiding any vendor lock-in which binds me to a temporary solution and leads to loss of data in the long run. I prefer solutions where I am able to invest my time and effort for a long-term relationship.

Before I start explaining my method, we should come to an agreement whether or not we do have the same set of requirements I am trying to address with my method. If you are into raw image formats, storing your photographs somewhere in the cloud or anything else very special to you (and not to me), you might not get satisfied with the things described here. At least for the photograph use-case. Decide yourself.

Read the whole article ...

2020-10-01: Migrating Org Mode Files from org-depend to org-edna

Frequent readers of this blog know that I'm in the process of switching from Emacs Org mode org-depend to org-edna because of the additional functionality offered.

I had to convert my existing Org files because both tools are using the same TRIGGER and BLOCKER properties but with different syntax. If the other syntax is found, syntax errors are reported since they don't match.

Therefore, I wrote orgdepend_to_orgedna which does the job of converting Org files from org-depend to org-edna. Since I don't know Elisp good enough, I wrote it in Python. However, I followed the TDD approach and used static typing to ensure a good level of quality.

I used it to convert syntax of my personal use-cases with contains only a limited set of org-depend syntax elements. However, in my opinion, those use-cases reflect the most important use-cases for org-depend so there is high chance that your files do not contain non-recognized syntax to convert. Please do read the "Assumptions and Notes" section of the readme file.

I also included conversion of Elisp snippets which I'm using within my yankpad templates.

If you want to see the details of the migration capabilities, you have to look at the unit test file.

If you're also using org-edna, you should check out org-linker-edna which is a brand new thing that let's you define simple dependencies with minimal effort.

Look at me, I've accomplished to write this blog article without writing "org-elpa" as I've done several times in the recent weeks. ;-)

2020-09-30: Es ist in Ordnung, wenn du deine persönlichen Daten Cloud-Firmen gibst

(You can find this article in english language here.)

Es ist vollkommen in Ordnung, wenn du deine persönlichen Daten Cloud-Firmen wie Apple, Google, Facebook, ... weitergibst.

Unter den folgenden Bedingungen:

Read the whole article ...

2020-09-29: It's OK to Give Away Your Personal Data to Cloud Companies

(Diesen Artikel gibt es auch in deutscher Sprache.)

It is totally fine when you give away your personal data to companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and such.

Under the following conditions:

Read the whole article ...

2020-09-24: Evolutional Steps of Computer Systems

Update 2020-09-24: Unix pipes as an information-centric approach

Throughout the history of the modern computer, there were several evolutional steps related to the way we interact with the system. I tend to categorize those steps as following:

  1. Numeric Systems
  2. Application-Specific Systems
  3. Application-Centric Systems
  4. Information-Centric Systems
  5. Application-Less Systems

Following sections describe how I see those categories.

Read the whole article ...

2020-09-23: A Draft Workflow for Advanced Project Management Using Org Mode and Org Edna

Updates:

I'm currently dreaming of a workflow that allows complex project management within Org mode. Please do read my article how I define projects within Org mode. I won't repeat those things in this article here.

So far, I was using task dependencies via org-depend, writing manual :TRIGGER: and :BLOCKER: properties. This works perfectly fine. However, when you want to use more advanced features, you need to look for something different. For example, I sometimes want to schedule a task on the day I finalize a related one. Or I want to schedule a follow-up task three working-days after marking a specific task as done. Org-depend only allows to set todo keywords and has no functionality to control scheduled dates or other advanced stuff.

With having defined task dependencies explicitly, a full-blown project management workflow is more than just a nice to have. For example, I generate all tasks related to organizing and conducting a lecture via a very long, complex and static yankpad template. This way, I only have to maintain the snippet template and get all tasks for a semester with all of their dependencies using a short keyboard command.

When you can not apply a static template to your project, you have to define the dependencies of the tasks manually. Using an advanced (and more complex) syntax, this is a tedious and error-prone task to do. Therefore, I want to automate and semi-automate as much as possible so that project management does not have to deal with manually write cumbersome property syntax.

Read the whole article ...

2020-08-29: My Backup Script: Rsync-Based With Orgmode-Friendly Summary and Desktop Notifications

I'd like to share my current GNU/Linux backup shell script since it exceeded the level of being trivial slightly and has some nice properties you might want to have as well:

Read the whole article ...

2020-08-28: We're Losing the Last Chance of Anonymity With Voice Profiles

Call me paranoid. In my opinion, this is an obsolete adjective since the Snowden revelations.

So far, our privacy and freedom was attacked not only but also by brick and mortar retail stores via Bluetooth- and WiFi-scanners (excellent German talk about this industry). Using camera systems, they are able to determine sex and age very accurately among other things.

While this being alarming for people who care about their privacy, this is nothing compared to voice identification.

With a much smaller cost factor, microphones may be installed everywhere to recognize and track people not only in retail stores. Combined with data from Alexa, Google Echo, Apple Siri and such, anybody is able to get extremely detailed profiles from almost anybody in reach within seconds: name, address, phone numbers, email addresses, psychological profiles, estimated voting behavior, household income, recent search queries, willingness for paying more than necessary (Apple anybody?), pregnancies, connection networks to other persons, you name it.

This technology is far from being new. The NSA was able to identify single persons within seconds over a decade ago. And it's not just the agencies. Therefore, this box has been opened a long time ago.

Voice profiles for identifying persons within seconds is a major threat for our privacy and freedom.

Be careful whom you deliver sensitive data. For example, Microsoft is giving away advanced voice transcription technology for free. Got an idea why they don't charge for it extra? Google is providing more and more services with this technology.

What can we do about it?

Read the whole article ...

2020-08-27: Zettelkasten/Org-roam/Org-brain Is Crap

Update:

First, I'd like to apologize for the rude title. I used this rhetoric trick to get the right kind of people into reading these lines: People who care about the Zettelkasten-method and who are able to express the usefulness of it for themselves.

Now that I have your attention, I'd like to write down my personal concerns about the Zettelkasten method which may not reflect your reality. I then would love to read about your arguments why my prejudice might not be valid in general.

My pile of Org mode data is huge. There are certain costs attached to migrating my data to a Zettelkasten method, even if this would only affect my notes.org file which contains my general knowledge base.

At this moment in time, I doubt that I will move to a Zettelkasten approach. Nevertheless, I'd love to read your comments that try to falsify (or confirm?) my worries on that topic.

Read the whole article ...

2020-07-22: UOMF: Linking Headings With org-super-links (Poor-Man's Zettelkasten)

This is an article from a series of blog postings. Please do read my "Using Org Mode Features" (UOMF) series page for explanations on articles of this series.

Reading this article you will learn why the Zettelkasten method is not for everybody. Furthermore, I show you a nice Org mode extension to link headings with back-links.

Read the whole article ...

2020-07-22: UOMF: Linking Headings

Update 2020-07-22: Added link to my article on auto-backlinks

This is an article from a series of blog postings. Please do read my "Using Org Mode Features" (UOMF) series page for explanations on articles of this series.

In this article, I'm going to explain how I am using internal links to create links pointing to headings using unique :ID: properties.

Read the whole article ...

2020-07-21: Restaurantkritik: Yamauchi

I already wrote about the great Japanese Ramen bar Ichi Go Ichi E in Graz. Now, there is a new Ramen bar that offers as good Ramen as the Ichi Go Ichi E: Yamauchi. You can find it at Puchstraße 4, easy to reach via Tram 5 (station "Puchstrasse").

We took Karaage for starters:

Karaage - chicken meat with coleslaw. (click for a larger version)

Then we had two different Ramen:

Kyodai Ramen. (click for a larger version)
Abunai Ramen. (click for a larger version)

I have to say that I'm glad that Graz now has at least two decent places to get decent Ramen. From our own experience, it's really as good as in Japan and definitively worth a visit!

2020-07-21: The Best Restaurants In and Around Graz

Updates:

From time to time, I do love to eat in more or less fancy restaurants.

If I'm in the right mood, I blog about my experience.

Here is my list of my personal restaurant recommendations for Graz mostly in no particular order:

Please note that I did not get any money or other benefit for this list.

2020-07-21: Restaurantkritik: Ichi Go Ichi E Ramen Bar

Update 2019-02-01: they have a minimal different menu for lunch (cheaper, smaller) and for dinner (more expensive, a few more things)

Update 2020-07-21: Meanwhile, Ichi Go Ichi E Ramen Bar has a second restaurant open at the Dietrichsteinplatz. Because of the Covid 19 situation, the previous address is closed for now to focus on one location. Please make sure to go to the right address ;-)

Today we've tested the new Ramen Bar called Ichi Go Ichi E which is a japanese expression.

Read the whole article ...

2020-07-19: Don't Do Complex Folder Hierarchies - They Don't Work and This Is Why and What to Do Instead

Update 2020-07-19: Comments and Backlinks by somebody who disagrees with me

I often read comments from people that are trying to come up with a clever, deeply-nested directory hierarchy to manage their personal files. You will frequently find discussions about these topics on this sub-reddit. I don't recommend investing effort in complex directory structures and this is why and what to do instead.

Note: Please do read this article in order to learn about the terms "directory" and "folder" and how my personal directory hierarchy looks like.

Read the whole article ...

2020-07-12: Carl Sagan on Religion, Science, Pseudoscience, Politics, UFOs and Aliens

Carl Sagan was interviewed by Charlie Rose on his book The Demon-Haunted World back in the 90s. The video is twenty minutes long.

They talk about science, religion and pseudo-science. Carl is worried that with less people who are able to understand basics about science and more people who listen to populists and propaganda that science is just one "opinion" among many, the human kind has got a huge problem.

By keeping people stupid, populists are able to cancel out the positive effect of scientific insight in order to manipulate the people for various reasons.

This foresight is impressive. These days, we do have to face the consequences of more and more people denying pure logic and proven scientific results.

Further more, they talk about the Loch Ness monster, UFOs and Aliens.

2020-07-09: The Disadvantages of Adding Todo Management Features to Arbitrary Software

I've read an article about the desire to add time-machine and todo management into a web browser. I'd like to comment on it.

Reading the article gave me the impression that (1) the author is really focused on his web browser and (2) he therefore maybe lost the general point of view.

My recommendation would be to use and maintain a standard todo management system and move tasks related to reading web pages as simple tasks in this system.

This way, you get all the benefits from a classic todo management systems for your reading tasks: adding meta-data such as notes, assign scheduled and deadline time-stamps, a standardized status transitions, task priorities and so forth.

In my opinion, this would be much better than trying to re-invent the wheel within the web browser yet again.

Reimplementing those aspects within the browser context would not be beneficial in my point of view because of several things:

You'd need to maintain yet another todo system which is bad for data fragmentation. People often mis-use email as todo management. This is very well studied in research and shown that this comes with many negative impacts.

If your desired feature would be implemented in the browser, you'd start to wish for the other todo management features as well, ending up in yet another - potentially not very well done - todo management system.

People would start to replace their todo management system with the browser-based one, submitting feature requests of standard task management features that have a low or non existent connection to web surfing, resulting in bloated browser software that does not provide good service for both, web browsing and todo management.

Therefore, I would re-think this feature request.

Since the original article does not provide any possibility to comment, I've published it on my blog and sent an email to the author.

2020-07-08: You Won't Believe Why I Was Using a Clickbait Title: Decentralization and Blog Visibility

Recently, I made a small experiment. I wrote a blog article with a slightly provoking title very similar to clickbait. The target audience of this article was the Emacs community where I contributed many things. Using a provoking title, I tried to trigger a certain group of Emacs users. The content of the article was not particular provoking, discussing some - in my opinion - reasonable arguments.

Then I promoted the article solely with one toot/tweet besides the usual Atom feed. The echo was poor. As a matter of fact, there was one single email comment, no comment via Disqus, and nothing substantial on Twitter/Mastodon.

Whenever an article like that hits the Emacs eco-system, it usually results in a few comments in the social networks or at least an occurrence on Sacha's Emacs news, a reddit post or even an article on irreal. Especially when an article contains provoking or negative comments of a hyped technology like I wrote.

Having a good visibility is important for content to be found by the potential readers because there are way too few people using the power of RSS/Atom to manage their input feed themselves, following my feeds directly.

In contrast to my personal blog, the number of readers on sub-reddits like this emacs-related one is large. Its sub-reddit page lists 41,800 members and the moment where I'm typing these lines, 248 of them were online - whatever this means.

So I published the very same content on reddit as well, when the blog article was online for twelve days. This way, I can derive some conclusions when comparing the echo of these two channels.

Read the whole article ...