• What we can learn from Steve Irwin

    The death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin caused a great wave of grief and regret around the globe. The blogosphere was buzzing with articles and condolences only hours after the message of his fatal accident. But why is that? What made Steve more loved or admirable than other TV celebrities?

    I'd say it's about respect, passion, credibility and fun.
    For one, it was the enormous respect for his animals that Steve displayed. He put them in the lead role, not himself. He didn't get weary of pointing out the beauty and diligence mother nature put into her creatures. It wasn't about him, it was all about the animals. He put his health at risk (and it was quite a close call more than once) to give people the opportunity to learn about all those different species, to show his viewers the importance of preserving wildlife for usselves, the "crown of creation". That way, he in turn gained the respect of his audience.

    Another thing is credibility. Steve not only put his money where his mouth was, he put himself there. He chose to get out into the wilderness, to go where his beloved creatures lived, instead of transporting them into a safe TV studio where they don't belong. That meant that he was likely to get hurt, but he accepted that. And he always emphasized that such injuries were his fault, not the animals'.

    If you ask people why they watch "Crocodile Hunter" time after time, they will probably tell you "It's interesting, and he's funny". But I won't say that he was making fun of animals, I'd say he just had plain fun being with them. Just like I have fun teasing and joking around with friends and colleagues without the intention of making them ridiculous, Steve did with his "colleagues".

    Finally, everyone of us could be jealous of how much fun Steve had with his job in general. He didn't hold back in showing how much he enjoyed his work.

    I guess that's how he became that australian original that gained a great fan base all around the world by making people appreciate the wonders of nature and respect their fellow creatures. An original that will be missed.

    What I learned from Steve Irwin is that while it helps to survive if you just blend in, if you really want to move something, you have to stand out by showing knowledge, respect for others and credibility. And that you can have fun doing so, too.

  • Bush coming under fire

    Replacing freedom with fear is not always a sure recipe for political success. At least not in America -- I guess in Germany it will still take citizens some more time to realize how they're dealt with.

    The United States president though has to deal with a growing amount of open criticism. Criticism like that of Keith Olbermann%e2%80%9chave-you-no-sense-of-decency-sir%e2%80%9d/ from MSNBC's Countdown show:

    More over, Mr. Bush, you are accomplishing in part what Osama Bin Laden and others seek -- a fearful American populace, easily manipulated, and willing to throw away any measure of restraint, any loyalty to our own ideals and freedoms, for the comforting illusion of safety.

    And regarding Bush's comparison between Al Quaeda and Nazi Germany, Olbermann just poses one question: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

  • More power for the Mac Mini

    Timing is everything. Just when I decide to get a Mac, Apple upgrades the Mac Mini without raising prices.

    Both models now sport an Intel Core Duo processor, one with 1.83GHz, one with 1.66GHz. The faster model also has a SuperDrive (DVD writer) instead of a ComboDrive (DVD reader, CD writer).

    I have been interested in Macs for quite some time because they combine an Unix operating system with market and ISV acceptance. While I can find fine Linux software for almost everything I do with the computer, there is still at least one area where more effort seems to be necessary than even I am willing to invest: audio production. I'd like a workstation that I can hook my MIDI keyboard and microphone onto and start recording.

    So, about two weeks ago, I decided to get a Mac Mini. I was aware that Apple was likely to present new models in September, and it was worth waiting. There'll be a new computer in my new home.

  • SGI discontinues MIPS/IRIX line

    It's been foreseeable and now it's official: SGI abandons IRIX as well as their MIPS-based workstation and server business at the end of this year.

    First presented in 1988, IRIX-based systems like the Indigo, the Onyx, the Origin 2000 series or later day workstations like the O2 and the Octane made Silicon Graphics Inc. famous. If you talked about high-end computer graphics, especially in the movie special effects business, you talked about Silicon Graphics.

    When I worked at the Karlsruhe Research Centre for my industrial placement and later for my diploma thesis, I did software development on SGI workstations and always dreamed about owning one myself. I eventually bought an Octane2 off eBay, but since I won't have the space (and time) to use it in our new flat in Freiburg, I reluctantly sold it a few days ago.

    In the recent years, SGI had a lot of management and financial trouble. They entered the Linux market by building their Itanium-based Altix server series, unfortunately with only mild success, and stopped the development of new systems based on MIPS RISC CPUs.

    Although SGI will continue support for the next years, this era is now finally coming to an end.

  • Dependency 2.0

    One of the advantages of using more and more web applications to communicate, organize and get information is that you only need a web browser to do your daily tasks. The browser is the new desktop, what have been desktop icons became bookmarks. Things get easier. But there's a flip side.

    What also changes with that movement to working and living online is the dependency on others.
    At this time of writing, I can't get to my task list because (once again...) all Zenlist displays is "500 - Internal Server Error". That may buy me some time to write this blog entry, but when I'll have finally finished all the to-dos I can remember, I'll be stuck.

    We're well used to depend on computers and the internet, but we tend to oversee the fact that these dependencies are growing. Think about what happened last time when your broadband connection broke down -- or worse, your computer. If you're already using VOIP services, next time something breaks you'll be cut off not only from email, but also from phone communication. Enjoy the silence.

    Depending on hardware and infrastructure is one thing. We try to compensate by choosing high-quality products, known brands and service providers with a good reputation. There's choice, and that's good. But let's not forget that choice comes at a price. If you want to make an informed choice, you have to look at the alternatives, weigh advantages against weaknesses, look for experience reports and reviews to finally base your decision upon.

    When we add the dependency on Web 2.0 application providers to the mix, we have to spend a lot more time on that decision process. Look at the overwhelming diversity of application providers: does anyone keep track of how many calendars and social bookmarking services are out there? I don't.

    And when you've finally found the application that does exactly what you need it to, don't forget that (like in every relationship) reliability is an important aspect. Even if it's not a marriage for lifetime, every divorce will cost you dearly.