A month with Dell XPS 13 (9370)

After years of using Thinkpads, I went for a Dell XPS 13 with Ubuntu. Although I had bought devices with Linux pre-installed and laptops for friends as well, this  was going to be my first own laptop coming with Ubuntu straight from the factory.

 

The hardware

The specs looked great (big SSD disk, enough memory to play around with VMs/containers, etc.), but I had to brush away some fond memories of old laptops, where I was able to easily replace parts (memory, screen, disk, power jack, keyboard and more for my x220). With the XPS this was not easily going to be possible anymore.

Anyway, the new machine arrived in the office. It looked great, it was light,  it was really well-built and whatever task I threw at the machine, it dealt with it nicely. In general I really liked the hardware and how the machine felt a lot. I knew I was going to be happy with this.

A few things bothered me somewhat though. The placement of the webcam simply does not make sense. It’s at the bottom of the screen, so you get an upwards-angle no matter what you do and people in calls with you will always see a close up of your fingers typing. Small face, huge fingers. It’s really awkward. I won’t go unmanicured into meetings anymore!

The software

It came with an old image of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS pre-installed and after pulling a lot of updates, I thought I was going to get a nice fresh start with everything just working out of the box. Not quite.

The super key was disabled. As 16.04 came with Unity, the super key is one of the key ingredients to starting apps or bringing up the dash. There was a package called supey-key-dell (or some such) installed which I had to find and remove and some gnome config I had to change to make it work again. Why oh why?

Hardware support. I thought this was going to be straight-forward. Unfortunately it wasn’t. In the process of the purchase Dell recommended I get a DA300, a USB-C mobility adapter. That looked like a great suggestion, ensuring I can still use all my Old World devices. Unfortunately the Ethernet port of it just didn’t work with 16.04.

The laptops’s own screen flickered in many circumstances and connecting to screens (even some Dell devices) flickered even more, sometimes screens went on and off.

I got a case with USB-C adapter for the SSD disk of my laptop and copied some data over only to find that some disk I/O load nearly brought the system to a grinding halt.

Palm detection of the touchpad was throwing me off again and again. I can’t count how many times I messed up documents or typed text in the wrong places. This was simply infuriating.

Enter Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

I took the plunge, wiped the disk and made a fresh install of Bionic and I’m not looking back. Palm detection is LOADS better, Disk I/O is better, screen flickering gone, Ethernet port over USB-C works. And I’m using a recent Ubuntu, which is just great! Nice work everyone involved at Ubuntu!

I hope Dell will reconsider shipping this new release to users with recent machines (and as an update) – the experience is dramatically different.

I’m really happy with this machine now, got to go now, got a manicure appointment…

I’m joining Weaveworks

Weaveworks

My sabbatical is over and today is my first day working at Weaveworks where I’m joining the Developer Experience team. I’m incredibly excited about this.

I got to know quite a few of my colleagues in the past weeks and they were without exception all incredibly likeable and smart people. The company believes in open source, is quite diverse and has an office in Berlin – also I’ll get to work with Cezzaine, Jonathan and Steve again.

Right from the start the technology really impressed me. Weave Cloud solves key problems many organisations and companies face today: being able to deploy services seamlessly, securely and easily and making monitoring and snapshots obvious and simple-to-use have an immediate impact on what you can do and what you spend your time on.

Here’s what it looks like in action:

If you’re on Google Cloud Platform, you can even use it for free or you can check out the tutorials to play around with it without having to install anything.

It’s going to be great to immerse myself and learn more about the underlying technologies and connect with the Cloud Native communities. It’s a big landscape with lots of activity and overlap, strong roots in the open source world and the passion to make modern workloads a more manageable problem.

At Weaveworks, I’ll be able to work on what I like best: talk to and work with devs, figure out what people need, look at docs and tools, connect people and make people’s lives easier.

One thing makes this experience even sweeter: I’ll get to reconnect with a lot of you folks! If you’re working in the space and I haven’t talked to you in a while, hit me up and let’s catch up soon again!

Alright, I need to start packing and off to the office for today… 🚲

Took a year off…

Since many of you reached out to me in the past weeks to find out if I was still travelling the world and how things were going, I thought I’d reconnect with the online world and write a blog post again.

After a bit more than a year, my sabbatical is coming to an end now. I had a lot of time to reflect, recharge batteries, be curious again, travel and make new experiences.

In December ’16 I fled the winter in Germany and went to Ecuador. Curiosity was my guidebook, I slowed down, let nature sink in, enjoyed the food and hospitality of the country, met many simply beautiful people along the way, learned some Spanish, went scuba diving with hammerhead sharks and manta rays, sat on top of mountains, hiked, listened to stories from village elders in Kichwa around the fire, went paragliding, camped in the jungle with Shuar people, befriended a macaw in a hippie village and got inspired by many long conversations.

As always when I’m travelling, my list of recommended next destinations grew and I could easily have gone on. After some weeks, I decided to get back to Berlin though and venture new paths there.

When I first got involved in Ubuntu, I was finishing my studies in Computer Sciences. Last March, thirteen years later, I felt the urge to study again. To open myself up to new challenges, learn entirely new skills, exercise different parts of the brain and make way for a possible new career path in the future. I felt quite uncertain, I wasn’t sure if I was crazy to attempt it,  but I was going to try. I went back to square one and started training as a psychotherapist. This was, and still is, an incredibly exciting step for me and has been a very rewarding experience so far.

I wasn’t just looking for a new intellectual exercise – I was also looking for a way to work more closely with people. Although it’s quite different from what I did up until now, this decision still was very consistent with my beliefs, passions and personality in general. Supporting another human being on their path, helping to bring out their potential and working out new perspectives together have always deeply attracted me.

I had the privilege of learning about and witnessing the work of great therapists, counsellors and trainers in seminars, workshops, books, talks and groups, so I had some guidance which supported me and I chose body psychotherapy as the method I wanted to learn. It is part of the humanistic psychotherapy movement and at its core are (among others) the following ideals:

  • All people are inherently good.
  • People are driven towards self-actualisation: development of creativity, free will, and positive human potential.
  • It is based on present-tense experience as the main reference point.
  • It encourages self-awareness and mindfulness.
  • Wikipedia quotes an article, which describes the benefits as having a "crucial opportunity to lead our troubled culture back to its own healthy path. More than any other therapy, Humanistic-Existential therapy models democracy. It imposes ideologies of others upon the client less than other therapeutic practices. Freedom to choose is maximized."

If you know me just a little bit you can probably tell, that this all very much resonated with me. In a way, it’s what led me to the Ubuntu project in 2004 – there is a lot of “humanity towards others” and “I am what I am because of who we all are” in there.

Body psychotherapy was also specifically interesting to me, as it offers a very rich set of interventions and techniques, all experience-based and relying on the wisdom of our body. Furthermore it seeks to reconcile the body and mind split our culture so heavily promotes.

Since last March I immersed myself in this new world: took classes, read books, attended a congress and workshops and had quite a bit of self-experience. In November I took the required exams and became “Heilpraktiker für Psychotherapie”. The actual training in body psychotherapy I’m going to start this year in March. As this is going to take still several years, I’m not exactly sure when or how I will start working in this field. While it’s still quite some time off and right now only an option for some time in the future, I know that this process will encourage me to become more mindful, patient, empathic and a better listener, colleague, partner and friend.

Does this mean, I’m going to leave the tech world? No, absolutely not. My next steps in this domain I’m going to leave to another blog post though.

I feel very privileged having been able to take the time and embark on this adventure and add a new dimension to my coordinate system. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without close people around me who supported and encouraged me. I’m very grateful for this and feel quite lucky.

This has been a very exciting year, a very important experience and I’m very much looking forward to what’s yet to come.

Taking a break

It’s a bit strange to write this blog post in the same week as Martin Pitt is announcing moving on from Canonical. I remember many moments of Martin’s post very vividly and he was one of the first I ran into on my flight to Sydney for Ubuntu Down Under in 2005.

Fast forward to today: 2016 was a year full of change – my personal life was no exception there. In the last weeks I had to realise more and more that I need a long break from everything. I therefore decided to move on from Canonical, take some time off, wander the world, recharge my batteries, come back and surprise you all with what’s next.

I’m very much leaving on good terms and I could imagine I won’t be too far away (I’d miss all you great people who became good friends way too much). Having been with Canonical for 11 years and 12 years in the Ubuntu community, it has been an incredibly hard decision to take. Still it’s necessary now and it’ll be good open myself up again to new challenges, new ways of working and new sets of problems.

It was a great privilege to work with you all and be able to add my humble contribution to this crazy undertaking called Ubuntu. I’m extremely grateful for the great moments with you all, the opportunities to learn, your guidance, the friends I made around the world, the laughs, the discussions, the excellent work we did together. This was a very important time of my life.

In the coming weeks I will be without internet, I haven’t quite decided yet, which part of the world I’m going to go to, but maybe I’ll post a picture or two somewhere. 🙂

I also haven’t lined up a new job yet (it’s a question many already asked me). If you have crazy new ideas of what I should work on next, I’m obviously all ears. Drop me a comment or drop me a mail, just note that I might be unresponsive for some time as I’m going to sit on top of a mountain, get lost in the jungle or the desert somewhere.

(My last day at Canonical is Dec 15, so if you have anything to sort out and discuss, let me know and we’ll figure it out.)

Morocco

Aït Ben Haddou [HDR]
Aït Ben Haddou (Photo by Oscar Gomez - CC-BY-NC-ND)
See you back on 9th January 2012. 🙂

Midnight Sun

See you in two weeks! I’m off to the North of Norway from tomorrow on, so if you have anything urgent you want to discuss, I’m sure one of these fine gentlemen should be able to help you out.

Midnight Sun
Picture by Oddbjørn Steffensen (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Remarkable people

You don’t see me blogging about things outside the Ubuntu world very often. OK, an occasional mixtape every now and then or some holiday pictures, but I generally try to stay away from topics such as politics or things that happen in the world elsewhere. This is not because I don’t care or don’t have an opinion – it’s quite the opposite. I just prefer to not get drawn into huge arguments about who’s right and I try to avoid writing about and singling out particular events and miss to mention others.

By now most of you will have heard about the horrible events in Oslo. As my girlfriend is from Norway, I paid even more attention to the news. The reason I’m writing about this is that among all the usual suspicions and noise in the news a few people stood out and truly impressed me.

We will stand by our democracy. The answer to violence is more democracy, more humanity.

Jens Stoltenberg, Norwegian PM

I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.”

Oslo Mayor Stang when asked whether Oslo needs greater security

We had been discussing on the island, how to tackle extremism and racism. We will continue this.

Youth leader who escaped Utøya

If you haven’t read much about Oslo and Utøya in the last days, read these two chilling first-hand accounts of people who survived Utøya: from Khamshajiny Gunaratnam and Debian contributor Tore Sinding Bekkedal.

After all of this, it would have been very much understandable to show any signs of knee-jerk reactions. The people I mentioned above reacted remarkably to the situation. It’s very inspiring how they chose to stand with their humanitarian values. It’s unfortunately very uncommon nowadays, especially for politicians, who in situations like this are under a lot of pressure. These leaders have my deep respect for choosing to do otherwise.

DJing

I’ve been slacking a bit when it comes to DJing land picked it up this year again. Some of my mixtapes are on a part of my blog that’s not syndicated, but I set up a page with all the posts. I just posted a new one today.

If you have no plans tonight and you’re in Berlin, come to the GNOME3 Launch Lounge (Facebook event page) in c-base tonight. I’ll be playing there as well. 🙂

Who are your mentors?

Jorge and Allison blogged about their mentors and start into the Open Source world and I thought it would be a great way to thank at least some of the people who helped me get started. So I started thinking about who all helped me out in one way or the other in the last few years and I realised that there’s incredibly many people I should’ve been thanking years ago already.

  • One person has constantly been there for me in the last 6 years: Michael Vogt. I got to know him in Dortmund, the city where we both studied. We quickly became good friends and although we now almost live 700km apart we stayed in touch and talk on the phone every second day. What I love about Michael is that he’s pragmatic, modest, thoughtful and generally a lot of fun. I’m incredibly glad he helped me out like he did.
  • Sébastien Bacher was the first person I worked with on a daily basis. Luckily he was very patient with me and explained lots of packaging details to me. We both grew up close to the Franco-Allemande border, which probably was the reason why we instantly got on very well. We laughed a lot when working together.

There’s dozens of other people who helped me out, got me thinking and changed how I saw things, but I’ll probably save them for future blog posts. 🙂

Today it’s been almost exactly five years since I’ve been with Canonical and six years in the Ubuntu community. Everybody was fantastic to me and still is. Thanks a lot also to other folks who were there for me in the early days (Oliver Grawert, James Blackwell, Jane Fraser, and loads and loads of others).

You know who you are and thanks a lot for the time with you. 🙂