Bringing Octopress and Jekyll back to Speed

Recently Jekyll and Octopress gave me quite some headaches: Just scaffolding a new post would take minutes. The same was true for generating the sites. After some digging around, it turns out that some old Gems were messing with Ruby in a way that would make it super slow.

gem cleanup

The solution was as easy as cleaning out old Gems. Now it’s finally fun again to use Jekyll and Ocotpress on this system.

The Quest for Bluetooth Headphones

For the last three years I mostly used pair of Sennheiser PX 200 II i wherever I was. I love their portability, the included headset and their sound quality. At work I had an extension cord running across my desk as the original cable wasn’t long enough. Having this cable annoyed me quite a bit. So after a colleague got himself a pair of Bluetooth headphones a couple of months ago, I want to get some myself as well. So after weeks of occasionally reading reviews and checking prices on Amazon I ordered a few on Amazon. Here is my interpretation

Disclaimer: This review is exclusively based on subjectivity and full of amateurish interpretations of sound.

The Contenders

I had a chance to test one of the wireless Beats (can’t remember which exact model) and the Sony MDR-XB950BT for about half an hour each; And the Sony MDR-10RBT, the Jabra Revo, the Sennheiser MM 400 X and the Plantronics BackBeat Pro for at least a day each. Here my impressions and thoughts on them.

Too much bass: Beats Studio 2, Sony MCDR-XB950BT and Jabra Revo

Even without any kind of Bass Boost or equalizer these three didn’t sound balanced but were tilted overly towards drowning everything in bass. I didn’t like it and dropped them quickly. Additionally the Jabra Revo had a somewhat mushy sound, which seems like a defect of the pair I had since most other reviews don’t mention anything therelike.

Third Place: Sennheiser MM 400 X

They are the smallest in this set. You could definitely hear this lack of size and therefore some atmosphere. But coming from their wire-bound counterpart I did like them a lot; they are extremely light and comfortable to use, and the sound is very clear. Listening to all the other headphones it got me thinking whether the extended use of such small headphones skewed my reception and like for bass a bit.

Nonetheless, once I tried to push the bass a bit further (using the fantastic Mac App Boom) they sounded even better and much more rounded. But I got constant troubles with the Bluetooth reception in situation where there are more multiple Bluetooth devices, e.g. the office with it’s multitude of Apple keyboards, Magic Mouses and Trackpads all cluttering the Bluetooth spectrum. The other headphones were more resistant to dropouts.

Runner-up: Sony MDR-10RBT

I do like them, they sound good, their reception is extremely good and they are very comfortable. Honestly, I cant really say anything negative about it. These are the ones my colleague settled one and he was kind enough to let me test them every once in a while.

Winner: Plantronics BackBeat Pro

These were last ones I ordered. I was already in between keeping the Sennheiser’s or ordering a pair of the Sony’s for myself. The first impression out of the box: They are huge, even for over-ear headphones and also a bit heavier than the Sony for example. But I like them the most, they sound pretty awesome.

Comfort & Controls

Their size has been my biggest concern: They are big and I probably won’t wear those in the subway. But they are comfortable nonetheless – even after a prolonged period of usage (5+ hours) they never get too heavy or uncomfortable.

The controls on the headphones are very easy to use: The touch controls of the Jabra Revos are surely an interesting user interface concept, but I would constantly end up skipping tracks when I just wanted to change the volume. All functions have their very own controls that are easily reachable, so I don’t have to fiddle around my ears.

Sound

The sound is just awesome. I don’t have much experience but to me they sound very well balanced. There is enough bass for some heavy metal stuff and the mids and highs sound very clean – however one does describe this in audio-language. Voices and podcasts also sound quite natural. Definitely the best audio quality of all the headphones I tested.

Other Features

I can’t really tell how good the noise canceling is for a lack of references. But it is noticeable in an office setting – I often find myself missing conversations when listening to music on a low volume and ANC is active. Often I see this as relief. Albeit initial skepticism, I use the “OpenMic” feature occasionally: it will record the sounds from the outside and directly push it through to the speakers. Great for listening to something around you quickly.

The Bluetooth reception is also very good. Only minor dropouts when I actively put a lot of other Bluetooth devices in between the headphones and the source. Otherwise they they’re superb. Even the lag for watching videos is still acceptable – at least good enough for the occasional YouTube video.

Batterywise the headphones tell me still have “Battery medium” – after approximately using them for at least 12 hours since a full charge. I will see how this evolves in the long run.

On Bluetooth Headphones in General

From this unrepresentative set of test objects, it seems that there is a significant difference regarding the stability of a Bluetooth connection. With Bluetooth 4 seeming to be the most stable especially in contrast to some Bluetooth 2 devices. The same goes for the sending instance: One can tell my older early 2011 MacBook Pro (Bluetooth 2.1) sounds much worse than the 2014 MacBook Air (Bluetooth 4.0).

And what sucks most about using almost any Bluetooth device on the Mac: The media keys of the headphones can only control iTunes, no Spotify or whichever other player that normally would respond to the media keys on the keyboard. But there are a couple of solutions to circumvent this: mac-bt-headset-fix and BTHSControl – I use the later one for now.

Ohai DigitalOcean

If you can read this, then I successfully moved this blog to DigitalOcean. I wanted to do so for quite some time but somehow never got beyond creating an account at DO. My server at HostEurope was fine, no real pain there, but I have been curious to toy around with something new.

So I’m still in the process of figuring everything out, but for the meantime it looks like the server config, nameserver entries and deployment mechanisms seem to run quite well. I might soon write a bit more detailed about the deployment mechanism later. But for the meantime some references that helped me quite a bit in the process:

EOY 2014

My personal End Of Year post for 2014, random thoughts, no particular order.


I spent the first half of this year studying in Aarhus, Denmark, meeting awesome people and having an extremely nice time. Travelled to Oslo and Copenhagen while already being in the northern countries.


Upon returning I got my masters degree in media informatics from the LMU Munich. That marked the end of being a student for six years. It has been an amazing time, I learnt a lot both personally and professionally and met some of my best friends.


Just a couple of weeks later I started working as Fullstack Developer at Scandio. Enjoying these new challenges.


I ran my first 5k in 25 minutes (and 5 seconds, okay). I joined a gym for the first time in my life and am still going there seven weeks later. Proud of myself and it’s nice to move when sitting all week.


I have been at the Prima Leben und Stereo festival this summer, and saw Linkin Park in autumn. Will do my best to see even more bands live in 2015 (got tickets for the Black Keys and Rockavaria so far).


Looking forward to make 2015 even more of a blast.

Fastmail: CardDAV Beta

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I switched away from Gmail to Fastmail earlier this year. Superb service so far, no stress with spam or any outages that I am aware of. But they lacked support for a proper contact synchronization until now. Their own custom solution was a read only service, so I stuck with Google for handling contacts.

Today they finally announced support for CardDAV. So far it works like a charm using the Mac Contacts.app and on the iPhone. Importing the contacts from Gmail worked almost flawlessly – the contact images went missing.

Responsive Enhancement

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Progressive enhancement isn’t a technology. It’s more like a way of thinking. Instead of thinking about the specifics of how a finished website might look, progressive enhancement encourages you to think about the fundamental meaning of what the website is providing.

Interesting write-up and first steps on why we should focus on creating websites in a progressive manner. Be sure to check out the other articles on 24 Ways this year.

The Web Ahead #75

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Andy Clarke:

It feels like at this point that we’re just, probably temporarily, but we seem to be in this little era of, “Well, let’s download Bootstrap, we know we’re going to have a header graphic. We know we’re going to have a horizontal list of links for our navigation. We’re going to have three columns and we’re going to have these boxes in these columns.” It feels a bit like everybody just makes that assumption so quickly without even imagining anything else as a possibility.

On The Web Ahead, Jen Simmons recently talked to Andy Clarke about “Creative Direction”. Or more about the current lack of it. I totally agree with Andy on this. It feels like too many projects start of with Bootstrap and all the design assumptions it caries. While it might serve the purpose of making a user-friendly website, it removes a lot of creativity that made the web so special (in a good and a bad way) in the beginning.

While all these UI patterns are well-tested and optimized, they make a lot of the web feeling the same. Recently I started to hold a little grudge against Bootstrap for that reason (and some other aspects but that’s for a longer post). I will try to put some more effort into design problems before just throwing one of these default elments at it.

And if you don’t listen to The Web Ahead yet, I suggest you give it a try. It’s ony of my favorite webdesign podcasts.

dotfiles

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I just had the pleasure of setting up a new Mac at work. Great so far. But whenever on a fresh system I recognize how much I tend to customize it. I found myself hitting shortcuts and trying to execute commands that weren’t available. To get around this porblem faster the next time, I just created a repository for all my dotfiles. More to come.

Seams

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Jeremy Keith:

If that’s the case, then it really doesn’t matter what we think about Chrome removing visible URLs. What appears to be a design decision about the user interface is in fact a manifestation of a much deeper vision. It’s a vision of a future where people can have everything their heart desires without having to expend needless thought. It’s a bright future filled with seamless experiences. Welcome aboard The Axiom.

I love this post. It’s not only about why Google Chrome might have removed the URL from the browser UI but also more in general what it might mean if the “seamlessness” is overdone. Spoiler: You might have already seen it.

Octopress 3

For over a year this blog has been powered by Octopress 2. I learnt a lot about Jekyll and Octopress in the meanwhile and tweaked my system on various occasions. And I still love the system and the ideas behind it. So today I rebuilt my blog with Octopress 3.

It wasn’t an upgrade in the common way. Octopress is no more a full-fledged wrapper around Jekyll but has been split into various components that can be hooked into a Jekyll installation. Have a look at their github profile: there now is octopress, ink, deploy, code-hightlighter and some more.

It is not yet officially released (as of now it’s release candidate 8) – probably also because large parts of the documentation are still missing. So it took me quite some time to get it all up and running, and I’ve likely not yet discovered it’s full potential. Once the documentation and some more explanations are public, I’m happy to write a more extended post on how to use it.

If you encounter any problems with this site be sure to let me know.