Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Open Music Model

Recently I blogged about my Spotify experience and that I am premium user now. I was amazed by how many people contacted me online as well as in real life, voicing their concerns, which ranged from topics like intellectual property law, the problem that they don’t give you anything that you may keep after your membership ends to net neutrality. All of them do really have a point.


Apart from the interesting discussions I’ve had, this also triggered me to dig deeper and so I happened to stumble across something apparently known as theĀ Open Music Model (OMM).

One of it’s major aspects is a shift from understanding the music business as product-based to a service-based understanding. If you are willing to accept this mode of thinking about music and given the benefits of the OMM, paid, online streaming makes total sense – at least from my perspective.

That being said, I do have to add that Spotify does not implement the OMM to its full extent and leaves out critical parts, which would silence a lot of critics (especially on the consumer side) right away. E.g., the OMM asserts open file formats, without DRM restriction, which may be freely shared by users as requirements. So we’re absolutely not their yet.

Campus Life

I do like traveling and working in research (given that you have appropriate funding) + being on an international IEEE committee requires just that. There have been a lot of trips this year that I haven’t even mentioned on my blog.

For each and every single one of them I do have a blog post in my draft folder, which I just never got around to finish and publish. Mostly because these trips usually turn out to be so intensive and exciting, with so many new experiences and people, that it seems virtually impossible to capture them in a blog post. This weekend I was in the Bath and London (UK) for four days.

Tower bridge, London (UK) 2013

I’ll do it differently this time. Instead of trying to capture everything I’ll focus on one topic: UK/US campuses vs. Austrian campuses.

After I had come back from UCLA in 2008, I did get one question frequently: What’s different? The answer is: many things. One of the main differences I experienced in the US and did find again in Bath is the way universities there are not only places for focused professional studies, but places where you actually live. Both at UCLA and at the Uni of Bath you’ll find banks, grocery stores, bars, gyms, running tracks, on campus housing and so much more. It is like they are small self-contained villages. In addition to that a myriad of student clubs enrich the experience of living on campus.

The university I am studying at right now (Johannes Kepler University Linz) does have some of these features, after finally having moved most of their departments to one centralized campus. Still, try walking campus on an idle weekday night (apart from Thursday, which is the big party night on campus) and you’ll find it to be deserted. Don’t get me wrong, you will see countless researchers behind windows and the occasional, sleep-deprived grad student heading for the vending machine. However you won’t encounter undergrads in their training cloths or campus sweaters, you won’t see dancing or fencing classes behind all-glass window fronts, the posters won’t invite you to join some fancy chess, music or religious club and you won’t be able to find a running track.

In Austria if you want to engage in any of these activities, it’s up to you to look for them somewhere else. Unis are for learning and for taking exams, but the institutions won’t tell you or make suggestions whatsoever about how to live your outside-the-uni life. Neither do they care about whether you take pride in studying at this very place or not.

Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. I do feel that the UK/US system generates social pressure and it is easy for students to get lost in different activities every night, with the potential danger of burn-outs. On the other hand I do think your time at uni should be wholesome and teach you more than just the subjects you are enrolled in, which is in favor of the UK/US campus culture.

The Austrian/German system does generate a significant amount of graduates who are not involved in any social activity at all, which I think is utterly wrong. Don’t ask me for numbers, but I can give you a few examples which ended up having quarter-life and midlife crises. On the other hand not having your hands full with all that uni social stuff, leaves space for students to get involved in their local communities. Plus the lack of university driven activities does of course also not rule out the possibility that students with a shared interest form unofficial clubs.

These observations are obviously very subjective and might not apply to all schools. Whatever kind of system you are in or about to enter, I do have three pieces of advice regarding campus life and your time at university in general, which I’d like to share with you:

  1. Move out of your parent’s home. While I would suggest a dormitory for starters (you’ll get to know so many people who will help you and who you can help) an apartment is also an option. This is the time for you to become self-dependent.
  2. Engage in at least one social activity or club, but monitor your stress level and learn to say “No” when required.
  3. Go abroad and enjoy the ultimate step of self-dependency. It will, for a limited amount of time, give you the opportunity to design your daily life from scratch, plus I guarantee you, you will learn more about yourself than ever before.

Having said that, I have to add that advice should always come with a disclaimer, so I’ll simply cite Mary Schmich here:

“Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

What’s campus life at your university like?

Geeking Out Again

I just can’t help myself: I have to geek out from time to time. And no, by geeking out I don’t mean reading comics or watching Star Wars. I mean BUILDING SOMETHING that is related to technology and, well, that is utterly useless most of the time ;) Here’s a video I made about my newest projects: pilight and pimorse.

pilight and pimorse let me control the lights in my apartment + they let you and everybody else in the world send out their personal messages in Morse code via the lights in my apartment!

Technically pilight and pimorse are centered around a Raspberry PI, which is connected to an 868-MHz radio via SPI and to my local network + the Internet. The 868 MHz signals control the three dimmer switches in my apartment. But enough of the tech talk, let’s send some stuff out into the world at