Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (* 18. Juli 1918 in Mvezo, Transkei; † 5. Dezember 2013 in Johannesburg)

A few days ago Nelson Mandela died. I am sad about it. I do not know why but i like him. Some years ago i read “Long Walk To Freedom”. The book increased the admiration I had for Madiba. His political and social work ranks him among the giants of humanity. But that is not the point for me. Actually the most impressive action was that he left the presidential office after one term. It is so natural that we humans hold to our position. Madiba suffered his whole life to bring change to South Africa. He became the first president of South Africa. Yes I know there were presidents before him in South Africa but I do not count them because of Apartheid. Maybe he could have been president forever but he left after one term. I love this. He fought his whole life for a good cause, made it happen and had then the grace to step aside. For me this is the sign of true greatness. I know too little about South African history to judge every step in his life but overall for me he is the one of the greatest humanist to ever walk the earth and I am proud that he is African. Rest in peace Madiba. I will miss you.

Picket in Darmstadt on 18.10.2013

A few weeks ago the news reported that a boat with refugees had sunk in front of Lampedusa. Several Eritrean, Ethiopian and Somali refugees died. When I heard that I was devastated. Several boats were nearby but could not react because the law would have punished them for trafficking if they picked up the drowning people. The punishment would include to the confiscation of the boats for month. Even if the court decided later on after months that the punishment was without substance this is a real threat for the livelihood of a fisherman. Being not able to fish for months is not an option when your family relays on this source of income. The incident is just the tip of the iceberg of whole set of problems which we need to solve. Maybe we live in the best of all words possible but this is not true for the most of us.

Some friends of mine organized a picket for the deceased in Darmstadt on 18.10.2013 from 17:00 till 19:00. The picket was an effort from Eritreans and Germans living in Darmstadt. I was one of about 170 participants. I liked the fact that people from different walks of life participated in the picket. It was a way of showing respect and support for the deceased. I am still not sure if my participation made any difference but I am convinced that sometimes one need to step up and just to show that you care even if this all you can do.

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Wiping out disks on Windows 7 with DiskWipe and Parted Magic

Once in a while I want to sell or give away a hard disk or a whole system. Although nothing important was stored on it in the first place I want to be sure that my data is wiped out completely. It is more of a privacy issue than anything else. Just in case some weirdo wants to restore my data. I am not concerned that a well-equipped organization with fancy three letters wants to get my data. There are a bunch of films where forensic experts in high-tech war rooms dissect the last bit of a destroyed disk and find the essential data to save the world. Really. Maybe I am too lazy to be paranoid but if I was such an organization I would not bother to dissect a hard disc and spend a lot of resources to find out the information I need. In most cases if you ask kindly enough people will cooperate. Social engineering is the right term for this approach I guess. Go to someone they trust and build a trustful relationship to them and there is the information you need.

Case one

You have a disk you want to wipe out and you have a running system where you can attach the disk to. In this case I use DiskWipe (http://www.diskwipe.org/). Simply download it and you are good to go. Be careful which disk you choose because all you disks are shown.

A second approach might be just to encrypt the data with truecrypt (http://www.truecrypt.org/) or any other encryption software. If your key is long enough and you throw it away a potential cracker will have a hard to get your data.

I still prefer wiping out the disk because it makes more sense to me.

Case two

You want to wipe out the boot disk of a system. For this case I used Parted Magic (http://partedmagic.com/doku.php). You can download an ISO File from their site and install it on a CD/DVD or USB stick. I myself prefer the USB Stick because using a CD/DVD seems too wasteful for a temporary solution. For creating a bootable USB stick I used UNetbootin (http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/). Download the tool, run it and install Parted Magic on the USB stick. Afterwards you can boot the system from the USB stick. Parted Magic gives you a set of nice tools. Go to System Tools > Erase Disk and wipe out the disk. Make sure you choose the right one. That’s it.

Critics might say that writing a bunch of zeros to the disk is not enough. There are tools which write up to 35 times to the disk. But again security measures are always a tradeoff between the threat level and the security level you need. If you want to absolutely sure just destroy the disk physically with a sledge hammer. That is an at least what I do when I have no further use for the disk.

Apache from XAMPP on Windows 7 refuses to start because of blocked port 80 (Solved)

I was setting up a web development environment on two windows boxes. To save some time I decided to go with XAMPP (http://www.apachefriends.org/en/xampp.html) because setting up Apache, MySQL, and PHP etc. on a windows machine can be annoying. Everything went well till I wanted to start Apache. On both machines Apache refused to start because port 80 was used by another application. The result was the same on both boxes but the reasons and the solutions were slightly different.

To find out which process blocked Apache by using port 80 I went to the Windows Task Manager > Performance > Resource Monitor > Listening Ports and sorted the list “Listening Ports” by Port and I spotted which service or application used port 80.

Remedy one

On my first box Skype blocked Apache by using port 80 and port 443 so the obvious remedy was to reconfigure Skype not to use port 80 and port 443. In the Skype window I clicked on Tools menu and selected Options, selected the Advanced tab, and went to Connection tab, and unchecked the check box for “Use port 80 and 443 as alternatives for incoming connections”. I saved the changes and restarted Skype. Apache started without problems.

Remedy two

On the second machine a service named “system” use port 80. Since I did not bother to find out to which Application this service belonged I decided to change the configuration of Apache to listen to port 8080 instead 80. On the XAMPP Control Panel I clicked “Config” in the row for Apache and selected “Apache (httpd.conf)”. The config file was opened and I changed the line with “Listen 80″ to “Listen 8080″ and restarted Apache. Again the problem was solved.

Which remedy you prefer depends on your needs. If your box runs in an environment where the application using already port 80 cannot be reconfigured or a firewall blocks the use of other ports it might be easier to reconfigure Apache. If it is an application like Skype where changing the ports is just a matter of some clicks this might be the way to go.

How to play FLAC files with Windows Media Player

I love to listen to music from my boxes. Since I am no high end music aficionado mp3 did the trick for me so far. From time to time I wondered if mp3 is really the road to go since my standard for the quality of the music may change over the time. After a little search with search engine of my choice I came across FLAC . I liked the idea of a free lossless audio codec which is cross-platform and licensed under GNU GPL and BSD for a different number of reasons. One of them being the fact that nobody can monopolize the access to my own files by setting up some type of access control or invalidating the format in the name of whatever after I have payed for the content. With FLAC if 10 years down the road a new codec emerges I still can convert my stuff to run it on the new applications and devices. At worst case I could write my own converter, well theoretically ;-)

VLC is my Swiss army knife for playing media files but I like the interface of the Windows Media Player for listening to music. Out of the box Windows Media Player was not able to index or play FLAC files. Installing the Codes to my box and rebooting fixed the problem.

Gabriel Mendes @ Bessunger Knabenschule

By now you might have find out that I live in Darmstadt. A lot of people judge this little city near Frankfurt am Main harshly. They compare it to Mainz, Wiesbaden, Cologne or Berlin. The conclusion: Darmstadt is a rather ugly town, dominated by the different universities, the big technology complex, hence the title Universitätsstadt, without much flair. I agree to disagree.

Last Friday I was at a concert with a friend of mine. Gabriela Mendes was performing at the Bessunger Knabenschule. I wish I could claim that it was my idea but my friend come up with it. A room with about 150 people and a small stage with Gabriela Mendes and her band. Man I wish you were there. Gabriela took us on a trip to the Cape Verde. Unbelievable. Her music reflected the different roots from Africa and South America. Playful, attractive, melancholic, full of joy and erotic. Every aspect of life in the most natural and direct way. No rational overhead just the immersion into life itself. From time to time a dancer supported the band in conveying the rhythm. Gabriela was subtle and refined but her dancer was just raw energy with wonderful costumes. You could see in the eye of the dancer that she felt uneasy because the audience seemed to be overwhelmed. While Gabriela made the audience silent by her beauty her dancer was too much to handle. The costumes seemed to be a little too short her moves a little too hot and dirty in a positive way. My first impression was that it was too much but when I stepped out of my middle-class conditioning I enjoyed it. I could have hugged her for her performance and thank her for helping me to get out of my head. I felt somehow embarrassed because it took me a while to admit to myself that I enjoyed her dance and how much the whole band fed my soul. It is amazing how little it takes to be happy and feel alive. But again without my friend I would have stayed at home and missed this wonderful experience. So next time you feel bored or you think Darmstadt has nothing to offer just join your friends and you might experience wonderful things.