Friday, November 21, 2008

Social Web

Social networking websites are becoming more and more popular, and it's number is growing. Some websites provide a unique service, while other websites seem to be more of the same.
Some of your friends join one website while others join another, and both of them are requesting to join them on their website of choice.

After a while you have an account with several of those websites, and you start to notice you are providing the same information over and over again, on every of those websites : personal details, interests, schools you attended, employers you worked for.
And you have to (re)connect to your friends on every of those websites.
Not to mention when something changes, for instance when you change jobs, you have to change it on every website and hope you don't forget any of them.

Wouldn't it be convenient if all of the information you provide on those websites, can be shared between those websites? If you want to change something, you can do it in one place and all other social networking websites where you have an account adopt these changes automatically? If you add a friend on one website, and that friend has an account on another website where you have an account too, that this friend is added there as well?

I'm not the only one asking the same questions. And it seems some effort is put into creating a Social Web, where this kind of (personal) data can be shared between (social networking) websites in a open, easy and secure way.
These are a few of the initiatives :

A recent presentation (June 2008) was held with an overview of these efforts and what the future will bring. Unfortunately, these efforts, for now, are quite theoretical and about creating standards based upon existing web standards. Several protocols are proposed (FOAF, XFN, hCard, GRDDL, RDF, OpenID, OAuth, REST, ...) to be used in this new standards.

No real usable application is available at the moment, not as far as I know, but the big players (MySpace, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Netlog, ...) are backing some of these initiatives.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Noisy fan

I noticed a whining noise, coming out of my computer, and it turned out to be caused by the fan on my graphics card. It is about 3 years old, so the fan starts to wear and will soon stop turning, which could be disastrous for the GPU on the graphics card.

So I started looking for a replacement fan on the producer's website and found this :

Noisy Fan or Fan Failure

The fans on ATI graphics cards are not user replaceable parts. To avoid any complications due to any possible damage that may have been caused by the fan's failure or degraded functionality, the entire card should be replaced. If the card is currently under warranty and built by ATI, you can fill out and submit the online warranty request form at

As I mentioned, my graphics card, a ATI Radeon 9600 XT 128MB, is 3 years old, so past warranty, but it still works fine. It seems I'll have to find a replacement fan, without help from ATI. I'm sure I'll find one, but I'm a bit upset ATI provides such a lousy service.

I can understand, they want you to buy a completely new and costly graphics card that's faster and better, but maybe if you read something like this, a customer might consider buying a graphics card of another supplier next time. One that does provide spare fans. ;)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

RIP Mark Hoekstra

Mark Hoekstra, a young Dutch guy, passed away last week, after suffering a heart attack. He was only 34.

He hosted the website, informing the world of his ongoing projects and hacking together of electronic gadgets.

His death is a great loss for the Open Source and hacking community.

RIP Mark Hoekstra, you will be missed.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Changing jobs is always some sort of a gamble. Will I like it? Is it as described in the vacancy? Is it as I expected it to be?
Therefor, it is important to know what you want and expect of a job.

Taking my current and past job experiences in account, this is what my ideal job would look like :

  • It should have something to do with technology or IT. I enjoy creating new things, so some programming, engineering or research should be envolved.
  • I have to believe in what I'm doing or what I'm being part of. The long-term project or product should be something I can support and be commited to. Maybe some sort of Open Source project, or cutting edge technology.
  • Considering my health, it is important I get enough sleep. Although I always enjoyed doing project work which involved long, irregular hours and traveling abroad, it's better for me if I can have less demanding hours.
  • I don't mind forensing, to a certain extent, but I'd like to live near where I work. Working in the same city where I live, is therefor preferrable. For a dreamjob, I would even consider relocating, even if it means going abroad.
  • The working atmosphere should be nice. Getting along with my colleagues is important as I'm around them for a major part of the day, and maybe even for a large part of my working life.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Retraining batteries

I've bought an Apple iPod (4G) three years ago (December 2004) and I've noticed its battery life decreasing over the years.

A few months ago (March 2008) I started on a new job, for which I spend about 2-3 hours per day commuting by train, during which I listen to music on my iPod.
When I first started, I could use my iPod for 2 days (approx. 5 hours of listening), without recharging the battery. But over the past months, the battery life increased. Last week I managed to use my iPod for 4 consecutive days (approx. 10 hours of listening), without recharging. It seems that battery memory can be 'retrained'.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Todo list

This post is a work in progress, listing things I would like to do in the near and more distant future.
Some may be completed soon, while others will take a long time or may never be completed.
While some items are in preparation of another item on the list, others have no set goal or defined purpose, yet. Thus, the items on this list are in no particular order :

  • Learning new programming languages and improving my knowledge of the ones I'm already familiar with :
  • Linux :

    • Finish the CLFS project for my old 486

    • Upgrade to a new version of LFS on my server

    • Get my encrypted external hard drive working in linux and windows

    • Learn more about the linux kernel and maybe participate in its development or that of another Open Source project

  • Continue work on some small PHP-projects

  • Think about the feasibility of the semantic web, Turing tests, universal machines and time travel.

  • (Re)paint my bathroom

  • Find a new hobby

  • Get a girlfriend

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What a week!

Last week, I did a selection test at NMBS.
Yesterday, I got the result : 13,5/20, which is enough to go to the next round. But I'm not sure I will do the interview in the next round, given recent developments.

On Wednesday, I had another interview, this time for a job at VUB. Before I got home, they contacted me to announce I got the job. Since then I have made some arrangements to speed up the procedure for appointing my successor at my current job and got to an agreement with my new employer when to start working.

Today is my birthday. I've received a lot of messages, for which I'm grateful.
Tonight I will do something relaxing, going out for diner and maybe watch a film at the cinema.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Selection test #2 : trip to VUB

I went, I told them what I know and I got a job!

This morning I went to Brussels, for the second time this week, for a job interview and written selection test, this time at VUB. The job I applied for is very similar to what I do now, i.e. system administration of linux servers.

The written test, in the morning, went well, explaining some linux and digital library terms and answering some sysadmin related questions. In the afternoon, I had an interview, with more questions about linux, libraries, me and my motivation. And although I was quite nervous, it went well.

On the way home, I got a call, telling me I was ranked first and congratulating me with my appointment as sysadmin.

I didn't expect to hear from them so soon. I thought it would take at least a day or two, before they would let me know the outcome of their deliberation. But it didn't take that long, so I'm very excited getting that job.

I have some thinking to do and arrange a few things, soon, as they would like me to start in March already.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Waiting for reactions

As I'm actively looking for a new job, during the last few weeks, I've send out some applications already. But after sending them, comes a very boring and nerve-wrecking stage : waiting for reactions.

Some companies have a web application or a dedicated E-mail address for sending applications. Other have a good policy on handling applications. Both result in a (semi-)automatic answer, thanking you for your application, confirming your application was received or instructions on when to expect an answer (or not), or what to do when you haven't received an answer within a certain period of time.

Others send out letters or E-mails thanking you for your application, but regret to have to inform the vacancy is already filled or you don't seem to satisfy all the criteria needed for the job, wishing you good look on finding a job.
But, in case you're not suitable for the job, they never tell you why you're not fitting in. Was it something in the presentation letter? Was I too modest, or not elaborative enough? Did I write something offending? Didn't I apply to all courtesy and protocol which is needed in writing a presentation letter?
Or do I miss some experience or education? Did they put more value in the optional prerequisites, than was laid out in the vacancy?
I probably will never know, but it keeps me wondering.

But some don't react to your application at all, which is actually quite rude. If they would just send a short message informing you don't fit in (like I mentioned in the previous paragraph), you can stop waiting for an answer. But if no reaction comes, when can you stop hoping for a reaction?

But fortunately, you only need one job, so if you send out enough applications, some reach companies of the first type, resulting hopefully in a positive reaction or an invitation for further testing or an interview. And once you have a job, it doesn't matter some applications never get answered. But while you're waiting, it can be quite stressful.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Selection test #1.1

Yesterday, I had to wake up early. 6:30 is early enough during the week, but on a Saturday it's even more unpleasant. The reason I had to get up this early, was because I had to be in Brussels at 9 o'clock to participate in a selection test for a new job.

Despite the early time, I managed to get out of bed, take a shower and eat some breakfast. Then I headed for the train station. Because I left a little early I managed to get a train earlier, giving me more time to get a connection at Gent-Sint-Pieters, on my way to Brussels South

The building where I was expected to take the test is near Brussels South, so I just had to cross the street to get there. Being a bit early, I had to wait in the hall, watching the other contestants arrive. At 8:50 we were let in, good thing I planned to take a train arriving at 8:30, because the next one arrived at 8:54 at the station, leaving me only minutes to locate the building, getting there and finding the entrance.

Before taking the test we got an introduction about the company, the kind of work we would have to do, once employed, and an overview of the selection procedure, which was about to start a few minutes later with a written selection test.

The written test was multiple choice, with 40 questions, divide in 3 categories. To discourage guessing answers, every wrong answer was penalized with 1/3 of a point. For every good answer one was awarded one point. In the end one had to score 10/20 to get to next round, which is an oral test.
The three categories were mechanics, electricity (common knowledge) and electricity ( power or signal ). It went rather well, considering that it has been some years now since I graduated and some of my knowledge of these topics is rather dusty. And I didn't have time to review everything before the test.
I managed to solve 28 of 40 questions, of which I'm quite certain.
So now it's waiting for the results. The oral test is planned in two weeks, which leaves me some time to review some more of my previous courses. If you catch me with a book on electrical motors, you'll know why.

BTW: Thanks to Tine, for letting me borrow a non-programmable calculator for this test.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Preparing for a new job

I mentioned earlier that I decided to stop studying and start working again.
Last month I've been looking for job opportunities, sending applications and preparing for interviews and selection tests.
Tomorrow and next Wednesday I'm invited for selection tests. The test I'm taking tomorrow is for a technical job, which is in line with my bachelor diploma in electromechanics.
The test and interview on Wednesday is for a systems administration job (IT), managing computers and servers running Linux. It's a bit like the job I currently have at Ghent University.
I also made an appointment with my previous employer, to talk about a job offer.

Today I decided to quit my current job by the beginning of the Easter Holidays and start working on a new job, somewhere near 1st of April. I'm hopeful to find a suitable job by then.

So the next few weeks, I will be doing interviews, waiting for reactions, finding a successor for my current job at the university and finish some small projects.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Studying ex, working in

Some close friends and family saw it coming, but I finally decided to stop studying. It's not that I'm no longer interested in physics, nor that I don't want to know more about it, but I can't bring myself to studying for exams anymore. I had a good time studying at the university and I have learned a lot over the past few years and I have met a lot of interesting people in this period, but it's time to go on and get to something else.

I've been looking around for the past few days, wondering which direction to take. I'm going back to working, that's for sure, but I have nearly endless possibilities. I can go back to my previous employer or the automation industry in general, but having gained some Linux, sysadmin and web development skills during the years I've spent at the university, I might as well apply for a job in that field as well.
I could look for a job in, or near, my hometown, but nothing is restricting me to go looking further, maybe even abroad.
Right now I'm looking what's available and feasible on the job market, in Belgium and abroad. I've started applying and probably will begin doing interviews soon. And I will continue to do so until I find a job that's best for me.
I'm not really in a hurry, so I can take my time evaluating the opportunities I come by and choose the most interesting one.