Shining Land

Welcome to the first (semi) sponsored post in this blog! I often received ads from Saal Digital, a German company that sells photo products online. That is, photo albums, posters, calendars, cards, you name it. The deal on the ad was quite straightforward. They offer a 40 € discount code for a photo album if one in turns writes an honest review of the product. And what you are reading now, is that review :) Apparently they do have some selection process, but I applied just with the URL of the photography section of this blog and it worked! I decided to design a photo book based on my trip to Sri Lanka, which I received this week.

The good things. I am very happy with the result. The photo book is very well made and the quality is definitely high enough for me as a photography enthusiast. I am sure a professional photographer would find some defect, but I think that the result is unbeatable for the price. Also, production time was incredibly fast. I submitted the final design on a Sunday evening and on Tuesday I already had the photo book at home. Saal Digital also offers a very easy to use software that takes care of everything. It shows all the available options, the prices, offers advice, and submits the job once the design is finished.

In the software, it was not very clear to me where exactly the spine of the book starts

The not-so-great things. The software, again. While it is easy to use and a great alternative to the web-based design tool, it has some limitations. For instance, it offers multiple layout styles, but resets to the default on each new page of the album. Also, most of the styles are rather questionable. To sell, I do understand that they have to cater to the bad taste that unfortunately is so widespread, but at least they could guide the users away from poor clip-arts. The tool to edit text is also rather basic and apparently only supports a limited set of fonts. I only used it for the book title, but even for that it was not easy to use.

The book is bound in a way that pages can lie flat, allowing pictures to span both pages

Conclusion. Saal Digital offers great products at a very reasonable price. Actually, a few months ago I was about to order a calendar from them even without the discount code, but then got a bit frustrated with their web-based design tool. While their software is also limited, it is definitely the better approach!

Needing Less

I have decided to reduce. I do not seek to have a lot but to need little. Having a lot is exhausting. First, you need to work hard to earn the money to have all those things. Second, you need to spend a lot of time to consume them. If I focus on the things I really enjoy, I can save both time and money. With this in mind, I started a detailed recording of all my expenses when I moved to Munich. Since this was now one year ago, I decided to take a look at all that data. The figure below shows how the money that I spent (not including what I save) splits into different categories. Unsurprisingly for Munich, most of it goes into housing.

Overall spending from April 2018 to March 2019, without what I save

A very interesting analysis is where I buy food and how much I spend on it. Note that the 9% in the above figure also includes restaurants that do not fall under Leisure Time. In contrast, the figure below only includes what I spend on supermarkets as such and the canteen at work. I must admit that I had never expected to spend that much money in the canteen. Overall, I spend an average of 5.6 €/day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when not eating out. Is this much, or is it little? One thing that surprised me is that I spend roughly the same in Edeka than in Lidl, although the former is considered to be much more expensive than the latter.

One year of food at home and at work

One may now argue that I probably go much more often to Lidl than to Edeka, and thus the absolute amount of spent money is similar. However, the figure below shows that I actually go much more often to Edeka. The reason is that it is right on the way back from work, whereas Lidl requires some detour. Location obviously plays a crucial role. In April and May 2018 I had a temporary flat which was right across a Penny. Thus, I shopped there 80% of the times. As one can guess from the figure below, I now live near an Edeka and a Lidl ;-) All in all, where one shops is not necessarily related to how much money one spends!

Percentage of the number of times that I shopped at Lidl, Edeka, Penny, and Hit

Happy Sixth Bit

Many of my friends (and myself) are turning 100000 years old in 2019. That is a nice and round number! And of course, there are only 10 types of people regarding all this: the ones that understand how one can become 100000 years old and the ones who do not ;-) The clue behind this is that 100000 in binary numbers is the same than 32 in decimal numbers, which is a much more reasonable age. Still, to honour this sort of magic geek number, I came up with a prototype birthday card that uses LEDs to illustrate this idea. In a typical computer system, the LEDs representing zeros would be off whereas the one would be on. However, since off LEDs are boring, I just used different colors. See below the result! :)

The sixth bit is needed because five bits only allow you to count to 1+2+4+8+16 = 31

KonAdri

The KonMari method by Marie Kondo is all over the place lately. And that is awesome. I know a few households that urgently need her help. She should have a 24/7 emergency number one could call when one gnome too much sneaks into a house. Building on her success, I think I should launch my revolutionary KonAdri method for saving money. The mantra of my method is to ask "Is it necessary to survive?" and, if it is not, we thank the offer and leave that junk in the store. If you successfully apply the KonAdri method, no need to hire Marie Kondo, which means that you save twice. Spare your wallet, transform your bank account :)

In the meantime, I am actually Dr. Cheap :D

Flight Mode

Flight mode is the best mode. I learned this once the battery of my six year old phone started becoming weaker about a year ago. The cellular connection was draining most of the energy, resulting in a standby time of about half a day. This was not very practical. Switching to flight mode would extend it to about a full day, which was just enough to get back to a charger. It was not until I used flight mode every day that I realized how calm everything got. No more interruptions. No more blinking LED craving for attention. No more longing for the phone to check for new messages since there just could not be any new message at all.

The Qualcomm MDM9215M 2G/3G/4G Modem in my Galaxy S3 is best when off ;-)

Switching from silent mode to flight mode is a big difference. In silent mode, you subconsciously know that there may be some content waiting for you. And your mind urges you to take a look. Just a very brief one. Just a moment. But like any other drug, it never is just a moment. When in flight mode, the hurdle is higher. The phone takes a while to log again into the network. The apps take a couple of seconds to retrieve the latest update. It does not feel anymore as if checking for updates would just be a tiny bit of time. It is like putting the cookie jar in the highest shelf of the kitchen. You can still reach it, but you will do it less often if you need to climb on a chair every time to get it.

The camara of my Galaxy S3: better than many of my earlier compact digital camaras

However, I have to admit that a standby time of barely a day is not much. And six years is a very reasonable lifetime for a smartphone. It was running Android 4.4.3 and we are now at version 9.0.0. Most apps were hopelessly outdated. The GMail app crashed when replying to long e-mail conversations. Google Maps had a delay of up to tens of seconds when navigating. I could not join the local bike sharing program because my version of the app was too old to pay. After a long dispute with myself to find out whether I really needed a new phone, I decided that it was about time. Still, I decided not to go for a high end model.

An unplugged RF connector for one of the antennas of the Galaxy S3

I bought my beloved Samsung Galaxy S3 exactly six years ago, in January 2013. I paid 497.98 € for it, which translates into less than 7 € per month over its lifetime. The screen never broke. All buttons still work. It has a few scratches but that is it. The mainboard died after about three years in February 2016 but I fixed it with a new one from AliExpress for 36.06 € that still works like the first day. I am very happy with the overall cost of the old phone. The new phone is a BQ Aquaris X2 Pro with Dual Sim. The battery lasts what seems an eternity to me, but I still plan to turn it into flight mode regularly. For the peace and quiet.

I took all of the above pictures when I changed the mainboard of my old phone in 2016