Lars Wirzenius: Personal life, 2004


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Personal life: No Nokia

I no longer work for Nokia.

Before I joined Nokia I had formed an understanding that Nokia was using and would be using its patent portfolio defensively. Part of the basis of this was based on a public presentation at an EFF Finland meeting by a senior Nokia manager on the Nokia software patent strategy. Yesterday at a Nokia internal patent workshop I came to the conclusion that my understanding was not only wrong, but that the reality was quite horrible. After thinking about this for an evening I came to the conclusion that my conscience would not allow me to work for Nokia anymore.

Now I'm unemployed and rather urgently looking for work. Any hints about nice jobs (open source development preferred, of course) would be welcome.

Update: Clarified that the public presentation was at EFF Finland (not internally).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Personal life: Death is depressing, part 2

Just when I'm getting over the death of my grandmother, the wife of a friend dies. 'Tis the season for sadness, or it seems that way.

I expect to either be quite inactive outside work for a while, or else unusually active, while I cope. We'll see.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Personal life: Job hunting

My job hunting took a significant step forward yesterday. I have been talking to a startup-in-the-making in Portland, Oregon, who would like to hire me. The job would involve building things (or a particular thing) on top of Debian, and it would be, I think, be a very nice job indeed. Unfortunately, they're still arranging funding and I can't wait for much longer to decide, so I had to decline the job. The only chance of getting that job now is if some nice millionaire wants to invest immediately. If you are a millionaire and want to invest in a startup, drop me a note.

At the moment I'll try to get a job in Finland. I have intereviewed for a couple of jobs, and at least one of them is also quite interesting, and they are hopefully still interested in me. We'll see.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Personal life: Close your mind to stress and pain / Fight 'till you're no longer sane

For the past four days, I have been in almost constant battle. This is a fight to the death! I will kill my foe, or be killed in the attempt. Things have got bad enough that no other solution is possible.

On Monday, my opponent invaded my apartment, and has refused to leave, no matter what I do. Thus, I will make right with might and use violent force, justice be damned.

If I can't kill a single fly, what kind of a man am I? Less of a man than my grandmother, that's for sure. She could pick out flies from the air when she was 60. I've never been able to do that, so I'm resorting to technology: various kinds of blunt and other instruments and chemical warfare, possibly even biological warfare, if someone will lend me a cat. The ends justify the means. I will show no mercy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Personal life: 35

Just about right now, I turn 35. Happy birthday to me.

This past year has been really stressful due to work, but that will end in the fairly near future. I hope the coming year will give me more time and energy to devote to the fun things in life, such as friends and photography, and endless hours of hack mode.

I already had a birthday party a month ago. Summer parties are so much nicer than autumn parties, which is why I don't care much to celebrate my birthday on the correct date. Modesty Blaise is my idol in this regard.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Personal life: New backpack

I bought a new backpack, a Haglöfs Tight Pro Large. It is about 30 liters, weighs about a kilogram, and is very nice to carry. I filled it at the store with the contents of my old backpack (mainly my laptop), and a plastic bag full of clothes, and it still wasn't full. Then I strapped the old backpack on top of the new one, and it was still comfortable and nice. The old one wasn't very comfortable even when almost empty, so this is now much better. I got the ultramarin/black version; too bad they don't make a burgundy/black one.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Personal life: Five year celebration

I threw a birthday party today. Actually, that's not quite so simple. Five years ago I celebrated my 30th birthday with a really large party at my parents's in Kotka, about 120 kilometers from Helsinki where I live. About sixty people came to the party and it was quite a success. One of the success stories is that Joanna and Mikko, two friends of mine, met properly for the very first time. So properly, in fact, that they fell for each other. They are now married. Yet another charming consequence of my parties.

Today's party was in memory of that really good party five years ago and in celebration of all the things that has happened to us three during these years. It was my 35th birthday party and Joanna's and Mikko's five year anniversary. They took care of the food, I arranged alcohol. There was way too much food and quite too much alcohol, but everyone behaved very well. I think I'll be able to call this party also a success, though I don't know if any people fell in love.

Now I'll have to figure out some to do with all the booze that I have left, given that I figured I'd go back to being a teetotaller after tonight. I'll probably have to invite people more often.

(I'm not officially 35 until September, though. Don't congratulate me now. I just like to have the party in the summer.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Personal life: Cut feelings out of my brain, please

I seem to be bad at dealing with worry and sorrow. There was a bit of bad news related to a person with whom I share a quarter of my genes and now my stomach is all upset and I'm having trouble going to sleep, being afraid of having nightmares.

Four years ago, when a relative died, I tried to drown my feelings by working a lot. After a few ninety hour work weeks, I was burned out and the muscles in my back were seriously hurt. I'll have to develop better methods for dealing. Luckily, I'm pretty much unstressed right now, having had four weeks of vacation.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Personal life: Ropecon bored me

Ropecon is over for this year. Ropecon is the huge yearly Finnish role playing, larp, strategy gaming, card playing, and whatever gaming convention. I've pretty much stopped playing rope playing games, but most of my friends not only play them, all kinds of them, but they are heavily involved in organizing Ropecon. That means, for example, that our IRC channel is pretty much silent and finding anyone to talk to or watching movies with is harder than usual.

In the past three years, I've also been at Ropecon, with my camera, taking pictures (see 2002 and 2003), but this year I was much too exhausted from work and didn't want to bother about arranging a photo studio, so I didn't. A friend did that instead. I did go there, for about three hours, to help Lynoure with her sales table. Not having anything else to do, Ropecon was quite boring for me. The program is not interesting to me, and all my friends are busy keeping the con running.

It was uninteresting enough for me that that alone might inspire me to arrange the studio again next year.

Everyone else seems to have had a nice time, however, which is good.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Personal life: Charming consequences of parties

Richard and Lynoure, two dear friends of mine, got married today. They are the second couple who blames me for getting together. Richard originally came to Finland because I recruited him for Wapit. When he came here for the job interview, in January 2000, and I threw a party to help Richard meet some Finnish people. Lynoure was at the party and they started to talk and, well, four and half years later we have marriage. Maybe I should throw parties more often.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Personal life: Stakes and Buffy equals goodness

Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with friends, while eating several quite good stakes (even if I say so myself), is possibly the best way of avoiding to do anything useful I've found this year. Have to do this again and again.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Personal life: I was molested by a bookstore (again)

The Academic Bookstore in Helsinki is having a sale. Again. It seems that it is impossible for me to walk in downtown Helsinki and not be lured into the bookstore and spend huge amounts of money. I feel molested. If I hadn't used all my money on books, I'd hire a lawer and sue them for taking advantage of people without willpower.

Perhaps I should start a society for victims of bookstore molestation.

On a related note, Marylka, who recently moved from Finland to Japan, notes that properly filled bookshelves are important: they make an apartment look and feel like home. I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Personal life: New phone number

I'm moving to a new mobile phone number, since the old one seems to have leaked to a number of companies who want to sell me stuff. My new number is sort-of private: it won't be in any phone books or information services, and I don't intend to give it to any companies, either. My old number will work at least until the beginning of August, and I'll be mailing my friends about it later.

It is sad that the only way to avoid sales calls is to make yourself unavailable to most people. With e-mail, I have automatic filters that can deal with most of the junk, and with e-mail I refuse to keep switching addresses.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Personal life: I vaguely remember having a memory once

I'm starting to slowly heal from being overworked, but there are occasional setbacks, such as surprising memory problems. Today, I got up from IRC to go have a shower so I can go shop things. I discovered that the bathroom floor was wet: clearly someone had already had a shower. I have no recollection of having had a shower today, so I must have forgotten about it. The other possibility is that someone else had a shower today, which would mean that I have forgotten that I live with someone.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Personal life: Ex libris

Jukka "montana" Rajala made me an ex libris. I like it very much.

I spent some time trying to place 21 copies (3 by 7) of it on an A4 sized page so that I could print it on sticky labels. These would make it easy to mark all my books with the ex libris, but I ran into problems. First, the layout guide I was using (an A4 sized paper with the edges of the labels clearly marked) was meant for another brand of labels. The actual sheets had 24 labels (3 by 8). Then, I started to wonder whether the glue in the labels was actually a very good thing and decided to drop the sticky label idea.

I now print 16 copies of the ex libris per page on plain A4 paper. The Postscript file is about 52 megabytes; if I knew anything about editing graphics, I could probably reduce that to a few kilobytes, which would make printing much easier and faster. But I don't, so I can't, but luckily I'm not in a great hurry with the printing.

I'll be using a normal paper glue for attaching the ex libris to each book. This has worked for hundreds of years, so perhaps it will work for me as well, even if I'm using modern glue, modern paper, and modern laser printer ink.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Personal life: EU parliament elections


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Personal life: I'm so ignorant

Lately, I've been feeling ignorant. At work, I need skills peripheral to my actual job and have to wait for others to do things for me. In my free time, I'm acquiring a taste for some new things that I don't yet know much about. Thus, I think I should study electricity, electronics, radio technology, programming language theory and implementation, interior decoration, history in general, art history in particular, math, philosophy, physics, biology and medicine, law, typography, cooking, public speaking, and martial arts. Maybe other things as well. This feels pretty overwhelming: there is no way I can study all of that right now. I guess I'll have to dabble in a bit of this and that and be content. Dilettant, that's me.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Personal life: A nice day

Today was a nice day. I had a day off from work again: my plan of working four long days a week and having Wednesdays off seems to be working well. I get more done, I think, in four days of ten hours than in five days of eight hours. Also, having an extra day off seems to be quite beneficial for my stress level, even if I don't do much. Today I visited the gym, bought food for a couple of days, bought a second fountain pen and some ink, and met some friends to celebrate my being a programmer for 20 years. Nothing spectacular, but quite relaxing for me, if not for customers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Personal life: No GVADEC

I don't seem to be able to afford a trip to Norway to this year's GUADEC. Damn. My only chance at seeing fellow geeks en masse this year will be if they come to the Debian sauna gathering a few days later.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Personal life: 20

Twenty years ago my father bought the first computer for his company and very soon after that I started to learn programming. The computer was a Luxor ABC-802 (see some links), a Swedish office computer with a Z80 processor and 64 kilobytes of memory, half of which was a sort of RAM disk. It had a variant of BASIC included in its ROM, and that's the language I first learned to program in. Unlike many other BASIC variants, it was actually a fairly good language, with functions and local variables. Programs were forcefully indented: the program was stored in memory in a tokenized form and the LIST command would format it to text on the fly and indent it strictly according to a simple set of rules. (No wonder I'm happy with Python's significant indentation.)

As I recall, we had about three different applications for the computer: a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a simple database. I didn't use those very much, programming was so much more fun. To begin with, I would type in programs from listings in books and magazines. This included porting them to the Luxor, since it was incompatible with all other computers in the world.

At some point I learned Pascal from a book and used the Luxor's Pascal compiler, which was really, really slow. It would take five minutes or more to compile minimal programs, and then they couldn't do very much. I never liked Pascal until after I started using Turbo Pascal on my father's second computer, a Kaypro PC, in 1986 or so. A year later I bought a copy of Turbo C with my own money, and never looked back.

On the PC, I played around with a large number of freeware and shareware programs, but mostly they bored me and I would prefer to write my own. Nothing very fancy, however, I was no whiz kid.

The next big step in my career as a programmer came in 1988, when I started my computer science studies and met Linus T. After a year of studies, I skipped a year to do my military service, and a year after that I was finally able to afford the first computer of my own, a 386 with four megabytes of RAM and a 109 megabyte hard disk. I ran MS-DOS on it, but really wanted a proper operating system to help me debug pointer errors. Luckily, I managed to buy a very cheap copy of SCO Xenix, which served me well for a year until Linus and others got Linux working well enough to be a stable platform. After I got Linux working, MS-DOS and Xenix quickly disappeared from my hard disk and ever since I've only had Linux on my computer.

Twenty years. They went so fast. I wish I had taken the time to do something important.

Personal life: Going retro

A while ago I wrote that I desired a typewriter. Today I went one step further backwards and bought a fountain pen. I didn't even need a new pen, I just succumbed to my urge for a simpler, less complicated life away from high tech devices such as computers.

If I had ever had a fountain pen before, I would have known that they are not the simple things I thought they were. There's all sorts of technical features involved and there's even a web site, Penoply, dedicated to them, with a long FAQ on what can go wrong with them. I'm doomed to be high tech.

At least it is a fun toy. Writing feels completely different from a ball point pen.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Personal life: Stuff is piling up

I notice that my personal and work e-mail inboxes keep growing and other things I should do also gets piled up. I can feel my stress level going up as well, which means that stress related symptoms such as irritation are becoming more common. I need to start taking corrective steps by reducing the number things that require my attention. Luckily, the flu I had during Easter is gone and I can go to the gym again. It is strange how quickly it has become addictive.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Personal life: Oops, I erased all my music

I needed to clear up several gigabytes of disk space from my laptop so that I could carry some data home. I did this by removing all music files, since I thought I had backups of them. It turns out I didn't.

Well, actually I do. All the music I had was ripped from CDs I own, and I still have the CDs. I can re-rip them. This time, I think I'll research the issue first and see what the best way to do this is. I think I will at least save everything as FLAC so that I don't have to do the tedious ripping ever again. All my CDs as FLAC files should fit into 8 or 9 DVD+R disks. For storage on my laptop, I'll convert them to Ogg Vorbis files.

I'm going to have see what the best compression ratio for my needs is. Since the output quality of my laptop isn't very great, I might save some space by compressing tighter. If I later need higher quality files, I can convert them from the FLAC files. I'll need to see whether it is worthwhile to normalize volume levels between disks, and probably other things as well.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Personal life: Smaller head

I made my head smaller today.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Personal life: No new books last week

Stack of unread books

I did not buy any new books last week. This was the first such week this year. I think I should try to avoid buying new books until I have had time to read at least some of the stack in my bedroom (see picture).

Sherlock Holmes bought many books, but read few of them. He stored the books in stacks on his floor. I do no think that is a pleasant way to live. I prefer a state where I have read all the books in my home. In other words, I want to be Nero Wolfe, not Sherlock Holmes.

For many years I managed to live with only one unread book after the one I was currently reading. The large pile of unread books I now have is giving me stress: so much to read, so little time to read. If I don't buy any new books for a while I should at least be able to make a remarkable dent in the pile.

Of course, not everyone shares my attitude towards unread books. Several of my friends seem to enjoy having a shelf of books waiting to be read. I can't say I understand them, but I'm happy to smile at them in an approving manner.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Personal life: Place of logging

A current fad in the Finnish web log scene is to show a photograph of the place where you write your log. This is mine.

That chair is where I mostly hack on my free time, where I write my log, where I do pretty much everything computer related at home. It is quite comfortable. The thing under my laptop is a lap tray. It is important for my comfort: the laptop gets too hot to have directly in my lap, but the tray protects me. Also, the bag of foam balls beneath makes it easy to position the tray (and thus the laptop) in exactly the right position.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Personal life: Choosing a gym

One of my New Year's resolutions was to take better care of my health. As part of that, I'm supposed to join a gym and exercising there regularly. Since I'm lazy, the gym will have to be close to where I live, and there are two near here. One is crowded by women in tights, sweating, and the other has a sales person who does MLM stuff on the side. Both require you to sign up for a year, at a minimum, even if you can pay per month. I'm leaning on the one not filled with women in tights, if only so that I can concentrate on my exercises instead of drooling.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Personal life: Bright light again

I stopped using the bright light during Christmas while I was visiting my parents in another city. When I came back, I didn't start using it again. I now realize that was a mistake: I've grown gradually more stressed after my vacation and a small part of that is probably due to the lack of light. I've now used the light again for a couple of days and I imagine it is starting to have an effect again.

If nothing else, it seems to help me switch from night mode to day mode. I feel less tired after an hour of bright light treatment than before it. Not a lot, but enough.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Personal life: Shoe shopping

I went shopping shoes today. I hate shopping shoes. My feet are of a seriously non-standard shape, which makes it hard to find shoes that fit well. They're wider and higher than they are long, as far as shoe makers are concerned, which means that shoes that fit as well as they can tend to have lots of empty space in front of my toes. This can make walking or climbing stairs a bit awkward. My shoes are variously of size 43 through 47, depending on the make and width of the shoe; the fortysevens felt like canoes.

I'd have custom shoes made, but that's always been too expensive, compared to the level of awkwardness. At least as far as hand-made custom shoes are concerned. For a few years now the Left foot company has been using modern technology to make custom shoes. Robots and whatnot, I'm told. They measure your feet and then send the measurements to the factory, where the shoes are made so they fit your feet exactly. And the shoes aren't even all that expensive, only about 50% more than I'd expect to pay for a pair of good mass-produced shoes.

Unfortunately, once I started looking at the company more closely, I learned that they don't actually make shoes exactly according to the measurements. Instead, they have an unusually large set of variations on their models for feet shapes and their computer chooses the closest one. This is much better than for mass-produced shoes, but not good enough for me. Unsurprisingly, they do not have a model that would fit me any better than mass-produced shoes, so there's no point in paying extra.

I eventually did find a pair of winter shoes that will hopefully last at least until next spring.

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Personal life: Sanna's birthday party

Sanna had her birthday party today. It was an early thing, starting as a brunch at 11:00, but I slept through most of it, not having been able to fall asleep until about 5:00. Still, there were many nice people at the party when I finally arrived. I gave her a couple of prints of photographs I took of her.