Good DNS people live in remote places

DNS and domain registration services generally suck. GoDaddy people hunt elephants. Hover is okay, but has mediocre customer service (personal experience) and bad web interface (objective truth). There’s tons of bad domain registrars out there. But amongst them, there are people that know their shit and know it well, and they don’t try to scam or bullshit you.

What follows is an unpaid advertisement for ISNIC and iwantmyname.

I own a couple of domains, and amongst them is piotrkazmierczak.compiotrkazmierczak.com used to be my primary email domain, but recently more and more often I have to spell my email address to people, and if it’s Dutch people I’m talking to, and my email is in piotrkazmierczak.com domain, things aren’t as smooth as they should be. So I intended to simplify things, and bought piotr.is, which I now use as my primary domain. It’s shorter, simpler, better. And it’s Icelandic.

Continue reading “Good DNS people live in remote places”

We sold our car today

Most of you probably don’t know, but about 5 months ago, Karolina and I bought a beautiful, red, 2013 Seat Leon coupé. We sold it today, because of our upcoming move to the Netherlands where we won’t need it, and also because it’s a major hassle moving a car to NL (a proper European federation cannot happen soon enough). It was our first car and despite the fact that we’re both pretty left-leaning, bike-riding, train-loving hippies, we were surprised how much our car–a petrol-burning, city-clogging thing–grew on us. Here is a couple of observations we made about it.

Continue reading “We sold our car today”

ECM is finally streaming, and I’m here to tell you what’s good

As some of you might have heard, the legendary Munich label ECM finally jumped on the streaming bandwagon. Yes, Manfred, I wholeheartedly agree that the beautiful music your label publishes demands to be listened on CDs and LPs, but these are harder and harder to take on a plane. With iPod Classic not sold anymore and iTunes morphing into Apple Music, music lovers will soon be left with only 3rd party solutions to keep actual music files on their smartphones. So thank you, herr Eicher, for allowing us to stream your whole catalog in 96 kbps Ogg Vorbis Spotify streams. (Did Keith Jarrett sign off on that btw? Nevermind, I know he didn’t. )

The New York Times recently published a list of their 21 “essential” ECM albums, and I agree with many of their picks. But at the end of the day they are just The New York Times, so what would they know? Here are my favorite ECM albums, which you should listen to at once. My list is of course highly subjective, but my taste is known to be notoriously better than NYT’s. Continue reading “ECM is finally streaming, and I’m here to tell you what’s good”

“And the Weak Suffer What They Must?”

I always slightly disliked Yanis Varoufakis. Strike that, actually I always thought he’s a bit of a clown. Motorbike-riding, leather-jacket-clad, attention-seeking, populist, arrogant clown. Worst of all, he was part of that annoying movement of European politicians that rejected the narrative I believed in, namely that:

  1. One must always pay ones debts.1
  2. EU and its institutions always know what they’re doing.
  3. Countries must be extremely careful with public spending and apply strict austerity measures when facing economic difficulties.2

Varoufakis, an outspoken critic of European Union and its institutions, and a prime minister in a populist government was in stark opposition to that narrative, and thus to everything I knew about public-sector economics (gives you an idea of how deep my knowledge was). I really hated the man, and felt sorry for the Greek people that they had a politician like this, in as critical a function as their finance minister, in the midst of such an enormous crisis.
Continue reading ““And the Weak Suffer What They Must?””

Jazz Music in 2016

2016 was, as The Verge put it, “a good year for weird jazz.”1 I’d go even further: both 2015 and 2016 show that jazz is an evolving genre, and that it became more exciting than ever before. Influences of hip-hop and electronic music are becoming more visible, new artists pop-up in places you’d never expect (I’m looking at you, LA) and push music into new territories. So while I do appreciate The Verge’s recommendations (especially Shabaka and The Ancestors),2 I had to add some of my own. All of them represent that very shift in jazz’s esthetics, so if you’re looking for a review of Redman & Mehldau duo, you’ll be a bit disappointed. If you enjoy fresh sound, however, read on. Continue reading “Jazz Music in 2016”

bora—an AWS Cloudformation wrapper

Last weekend I spent some time working on a small project: bora.1 It’s a simple wrapper around AWS Cloudformation, so obviously everyone’s question is: why the hell would I want yet another Cloudformation wrapper? tl;dr answer is: because all the ones which are available suck. But let me elaborate.

  • Troposphere-based tools are inelegant. Troposphere itself is poorly documented, and I dislike how the Python code mixes with actual Cloudformation JSON code in it. It’s also very often non-lintable (or gets unreadable after linting).
  • I ❤️ Python just like the next guy, but it’s not very well suited for things like CI/CD pipelines. I see this a lot in clients’ setups: first your jenkins job needs to pull the code, then create a virtualenv and pip the requirements, then lint (hah!), and then, hopefully, run. With compiled languages (and Golang especially), you only need to download a binary and run it. The only thing you have to care about is the underlying architecture and OS (which, in 99% of the CI/CD cases, is elf x86_64).

  • I want to embrace Cloudformation’s new neat & clean YAML capabilities. JSON is ugly. Troposphere, as mentioned already, is ugly too. Combining YAML with some Jinja-like markup for variables and loops, we could end up with something very elegant and readable. Continue reading “bora—an AWS Cloudformation wrapper”

AWS Cloudformation template for Counter Strike GO server

I spent an evening writing a cloudformation template for Counter Strike Global Offensive linux server. No, I don’t have a life. Yes, you will thank me next time you play with your friends and the laptop cannot handle more than 5 players. (AWS t2.micro handles 6 players easily, and you can always throw a c4.large at the problem which is still about $0.13/hr and handles, well, just about anything).

The template sets up a single EC2 instance of type t2.micro by default, uses the default VPC, and runs the server with “Arms Race” game in a free-for-all mode. Consult Valve’s documentataion page if you want to run other games or reconfigure the server in any way. The template also sets up a CNAME record pointing to the instance’s public DNS name, so comment the last section out if you don’t have a public hosted zone in your Route53.

Happy shooting!

iPhone 7 Plus and its Two Lenses

To some, Apple’s yesterday keynote wasn’t all that impressive. After all, the new iPhone 7 doesn’t look all that new, the new Apple Watch looks exactly like the old one, and minor improvements aside (water resistance, GPS for the watch, new processors), there wasn’t really anything impressive shown in San Francisco last night. Except one small detail—the camera(s) on the upcoming iPhone 7 Plus.

This is the photograph Apple showed during the keynote, initially leading everyone to believe it’s been taken with a “high-end camera”:

iphone-7plus-sample

only to later explain it’s been shot with the upcoming iPhone 7 Plus, which features two lenses—one wide-angle, and one tele—that are then used by iPhone’s software to infer the depth of field, and to create the bokeh effect. While far from perfect (there’s something wrong with how the face of the model is separated from the background), this, to me, is a major breakthrough in smartphone photography. As the technology matures, we will see the “bokeh software” improve, and the dual-lens technology perhaps applied to other areas (VR?), but most importantly it’ll render cameras obsolete, to most people at least.

I can’t wait for this day to come.

Hi, America

(I’m biased towards everything American, so despite a relatively US-critical tone, you may be offended by this post if you’re too European.)

I remember watching “The Cosby Show” with my parents in the nineties. It was a crazy time of massive political change in Poland, and my parents were always pointing at the fictional Huxtables as role models. Me and my father were even replicating Cliff Huxtable’s way of making chili, and we’d make tons of inside jokes that we’d always gladly explain to any guests we’d be having. We didn’t realize at that point how controversial The Cosby Show was in the 80s in the US. What was lost on Polish viewers was that the show’s depiction of black people was atypical to say the least. The Huxtable family wasn’t poor, hell, it wasn’t even middle class. A lawyer (a black woman!) and a senior obstetrician, raising a family of 5 in a fantastic brownstone in Brooklyn Heights—that’s how all well-educated Americans lived, right? We didn’t see the controversy, and missed out on some of the social commentary, but we still enjoyed Bill Cosby’s jokes, his colorful sweaters, his fictional family’s great parenting advice, etc. Of course not only the Huxtables were our role models, but the US was depicted as the promised land, which in the 90s it clearly was. They won the cold war, they became the sole superpower, Fukuyama announced “the end of history”—no one had any doubts.

Then at the break of the century, a new world begun. 9.11 happened, W. & co. took power,1 the 2008 banking crisis hit the world hard, the US middle class shrinked, Wall Street was occupied, and, as a proverbial nail to the coffin, they now tell me that Bill Cosby, my beloved Dr. Huxtable, is (allegedly) a sex offender. America of my childhood is gone for good, along with the post-cold-war Reagan-Thatcher world order formerly known as “new.”

Yet besides all that, there has never been a country I felt so emotionally strong about as the United States.

Continue reading “Hi, America”

Dehydration—a cautionary tale

I’ve been riding bikes for a very long time, and although I’ve had breaks, I can safely say I’ve been riding bicycles throughout my whole life. I am lucky to have never had any serious accidents or injuries while cycling, other than the occasional my-shoes-are-still-clipped-into-the-pedals thing,1 I’ve never been doored, I never smashed with my bike into things that generally don’t like being smashed into (that’s a lie; it’s just that injuries were never serious), and I was rear-ended by other bikers only on a few occasions.

Today I went for a quick ride. It was a short one, but since I only got a non-city bike a couple of weeks back,2 I’m still building up my strength and endurance, and, sadly, 50km-long rides are my standard for now. It’s a sunny Sunday in Munich, with a temperature of about 31°C (this is like 88°F, ‘Mericans), clear skies, and I decided to explore some trails around the Isar river. It was all going well, until I reached a part of the trail which was really more akin to a single track than a road of any sort. Riding there on my 32c tires, and climbing even small hills, and being in the proximity of a river which makes the climate hot-and-humid was very exhausting. When I reached the asphalt road and headed towards Neufahrn, I realized I’m running out of water. By the time I turned into Olympiastraße, I was getting a bit weak, and about 10kms from Munich I had to stop. Continue reading “Dehydration—a cautionary tale”