New Opportunities

My involuntary break from work didn’t last for long. I had to get back into the Ad Tech world! Meanwhile it’s an area I’m very passionate about. So where did i find the new challenge? It’s a relatively small company compared to Oath (now Verizon Media) with overall 480 employees and only 15 in my location. A joint venture of an ad network called previously Netzathleten that has been founded in 2007 and that belonged to RTL with a traditional print publisher being Mairdumont that has been founded in 1948 and got into online publishing and advertising over the past years. Mairdumont Netletix (with Netletix being the ad network) I found a role that is both challenging and impactful. I already knew the company as a leader in ad fraud detection from the Admanagerforum summits and what I’ve seen in the first two weeks working there only confirms the picture I had. Highly impressive technology based on DFP that has been extended and enhanced in almost every area.

Mairdumont, the new majority ownership part of the company has a fascinating history. On the company website it’s available only in German so I’ve put it through Google Translate and posting it here. IMHO it’s worth reading. True passion for travel, travel guides and maps:

Pioneers of travel

“What counts is exploration alone.” The thirst for adventure and the urge to discover had lured Kurt Mair, the founder of MAIRDUMONT, into the world in the 1920s. He traveled throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, from the North Cape to the Sahara. He preferred to ride his motorcycle or the standard Vanguard. He documented, described and mapped everything.

After World War II – Germany was largely destroyed – he already had the vision: The Germans will travel. And even then he knew that nothing was as positive as traveling. In 1948 he founded the Cartographic Institute Kurt Mair (later Mairs Geographical Publishing and MAIRDUMONT) with his own exploration service. His goal was: being on the move for everyone, the democratized version of upper-class educational travel. In short: travel as we know it today.

Their own reconnaissance cars were constantly on the move, their drivers traveling hundreds of thousands of kilometers to map and pick up roads and destroyed bridges. There were no authorities at that time that were responsible for the destruction caused by the World War. A cooperation with all road authorities of the federal states quickly developed, which allowed the publishing house to also include the planning in the street atlases. Her own exploration, then a real pioneering achievement, turned the resulting cards into sought-after products: no one else was that accurate and reliable at the time. The first “Shell Autoatlas Deutschland” developed from 1950 to the most important companion of German motorists and was largely the model of whole Atlas generations. Your own exploration became the guideline of the publisher’s development, both for maps and later for travel guides.

Again and again Kurt Mair pursued his own passion, traveling. The whole family went to Africa, through Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and across the Sahara, through Europe and Turkey. The expeditions were great adventures and, above all, exploratory trips, because it was written down and mapped. For months the travelers were in the tent, setting up their tents in the most beautiful places and, if possible, even on Mount Vesuvius or Toubkal, the highest peak in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. Regulations, but also travel guides or a functioning infrastructure did not exist then.

His son Volkmar Mair took over after the sudden death of his father the publisher. He, too, has blood travel and crossed Russia in 1960, the first German car, from Berlin to Warsaw to Moscow and St. Petersburg, Kiev, Yalta and Odessa.

Since 01.01.2010 his daughter Stephanie Mair-Huydts is the spokeswoman of the management. His son Frank Mair is also in the management.

Pioneering spirit, thirst for adventure and the will to innovate were not only characteristic for the emergence of MAIRDUMONT. They can also be found in the history of publishers belonging to the publishing group MAIRDUMONT. Many of them were themselves far-sighted pioneers and pioneers in their field: the Baedeker publishing house. Karl Baedeker is considered the founder of the travel guide worldwide. In 1832 he created the world’s first travel guide with his title “Rheinreise”. Gerhard Falk invented the patented FALK city map folding and the hyperboloid projection. Hallwag and Kümmerly + Frey are deeply rooted in the history of travel with their roots, DuMont with its reputation for individuality, cosmopolitanism and intellectuality, as well as Lonely Planet, a synonym for individual tourism worldwide. All of our publishers and partners, pioneers of travel, are now united under one roof.

This spirit can be felt in the company today. Traveling is constantly changing. The media development provides new ways for information and inspiration for the traveler. MAIRDUMONT repeatedly creates innovations, whether in mobile or web-based media or in print.

From: https://www.mairdumont.com/unternehmen/pioniere-des-reisens/

The last day

yahoo_memories

On January 31st 2019 was my last day in the former Yahoo office in Munich (now Verizon Media). The special items of past and current brands on the photo will get a honorable place on a shelf in my living room! After almost exactly 15 years, many roles & responsibilities, various company strategies and even company names, a CEO Challenge and a LEAD award it’s time to move on to find new adventures and opportunities. Bleeding purple has been always a way of life for me and for a very long time I had a sticker on the back of my car saying “Do You Yahoo?”. It has been an exciting journey for me from my times as Product Manager CNS to the last role as Technical Solutions Manager. It has never been boring! I met great people, learned a lot, worked with state-of-the-art technologies, have seen amazing places on off-sites and had the opportunity to get completely new perspectives with various company mergers.

THE FALL OF FLASH

Sometimes my company gives me the opportunity to do some really cool things. That happened recently. I composed a blog post for the BrightRoll corporate blog together with the technical writer and PR team about a topic I’m passionate about, the Flash deprecation. Check it out: https://brightroll.com/blog/fall-flash-what-video-advertisers-need-know

VR Shinecon & mini gamepad review

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Last week a colleague brought his Samsung Gear VR to work. I tried VR for the first time and really liked it so I considered buying one. Unfortunately it turned out that my Samsung Note 4 doesn’t fit in it though (only the Note 5 or the latest S models do). To make it fit I would need to break out four plastic pieces. I realized that Samsung has a pretty unique app ecosystem but thought that Google Cardboard should have the same. Instead of ordering the cheap looking Cardboard I got a set of VR glasses by Shinecon and a mini gamepad for the controls.

VR Glasses:

http://www.amazon.de/ELEGIANT-Universal-Einstellbar-virtuelle-Pappkarton/dp/B015HCKZ50/276-0325754-5544109?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_sw_r_fa_awd_YBOixbHS5MWAF

Mini gamepad:

http://www.amazon.de/ELEGIANT-Fernbedinung-Fernsteuerpult-Controller-Fernbedienung-Schwarz/dp/B015PFONRK/ref=pd_bxgy_107_img_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1MJFXKG2YKGGCYATQK2M

Cons:

  1. I have been surprised to find out it’s not really Google Cardboard compatible because it doesn’t have the magnet button that is necessary to press buttons in the virtual reality environment.
  2. The mini gamepad is not configured to act as a left mouse click by default. I had to reboot the gamepad by pressing reset with a nail on the rear side and pressing the upper start and lower A (circle) button simultaneously. The gamepad switch on the side has to be set to key as well.
  3. It’s almost impossible to play games that rely on precise head movements when sitting. I found myself looking to the side after starting in a straight forward looking head position while I should be looking still straight forward according to the virtual space. The Google Cardboard VR apps are using the built in phone’s sensors and have much worse head tracking in the sense of drift, lag, and jitter compared to a Samsung Gear VR.
  4. The sound comes out of the phone and is in a strange non centered position. It’s for sure no stereo.

Pros:

  1. The picture is very sharp in combination with my Note 4. On the Samsung Gear VR I experienced a certain blur that didn’t go away by adjusting the focus.
  2. There is no ghosting. On the Samsung Gear VR I had ghosting effects.
  3. VR video on YouTube is really fun to watch. I especially enjoy roller coasters 🙂
  4. There are some games like Deep Space VR that work well even with the sluggish head tracking.

 

 

IAB SafeFrame

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Last week I had the opportunity to present a relatively new IAB standard on a local ad industry event in Germany, the Admanagerforum (More: http://www.admanagerforum.de/). It’s a technology I highly anticipated and supported at Yahoo, the company I work for before it was even submitted to the IAB. I certified rich media vendors for it and made sure it rolled out properly across Yahoo sites in Europe and Middle East (EMEA). Some peopele say that too specific standards kill innovation in the online industry but in my opinion it’s the cure to many problems in online advertising. From security, ad fraud, code quality to billing and discrepancies. SafeFrame is an important step ahead in improving ad code quality in rich media ad tags, improving security for publisher sites and it provides the ability for billing based on viewable impressions too (finally accredited by the MRC). Ad fraud is something that’s more difficult in a SafeFrame environment as well. About half of the audience in the summit has been on DFP and Google recently implemented support for this in GPT so the feedback and interest was better than I expected. Approximately one third of the audience indicated interest in learning more about the topic later.

Enjoy this great infographic from the IAB website (http://www.iab.net/safeframe) and listen to my colleague Sean Snider, the software architectect who mainly developed SafeFrame at Yahoo and James Deaker explaining the viewablity aspect. My presentation in German is available here via OneDrive: http://1drv.ms/1CCLwcs

safeframes-infographic

Webseclab Web Security Scanner

dmitry

 

My colleague Dmitry opensourced Webseclab yesterday at FOSDEM in Brussels [1] – https://github.com/yahoo/webseclab – a sample set of tests for web security scanners, and a toolkit (or mini-mini-framework) to easily create or modify such tests or demos.  Take it for a test drive – it should be easy to install (using Go – need to set GOPATH environment variable to some directory like $HOME or $HOME/go):

go install github.com/yahoo/webseclab/...

Godoc: http://godoc.org/github.com/yahoo/webseclab

[1] https://fosdem.org/2015/schedule/event/go_web_security_scanner/

Congrats!

Amazon Fire HD 7 2014 (4th generation) review

2015-01-14_08-17-57 After my Medion (Lenovo) Lifetab E7316 7″ Android tablet broke because it felt down from the bedside table I started looking for a replacement. That said I found it astonishing how thin the glass on the screen of the Medion was. The tablet was inside a leather case when it felt down but not even that could save the glass from cracking. I never really considered the Kindle Fire HD models before because of the Amazon ecosystem but since several months I have Prime so I thought I give it a try. Some benefits like the free books access of Prime are available only on real Kindle devices and not through the Amazon App. Amazon also offered a 30 Euro discount on the new 2014 models during the Christmas sale so I went for a 16 GB 7″ Fire HD. After using it for about a month I can say I’m fully satisfied but there are some downsides too. Pros:

  • Powerful Texas Instruments OMAP 4460 SoC with 1,5 GHz (http://www.ti.com/product/omap4460). Amazon says it’s a quad core but it’s more of a dual core with two extra cores for low profile tasks. Dead Trigger 2 and Riptide GP 2 run smoothly.
  • Sharp 1280×800 screen with good view angles. Brightness can be turned up really well to deal with strong sunshine.
  • Excellent Dolby stereo speakers. Try putting the tablet on a table. It’s amazing because they are positioned in a way that it will boost the volume.
  • Awesome Wi-Fi reception. Where my other wireless devices fail the Fire HD manages to get a good signal strength.
  • Fast battery charging. I think I never saw any mobile device that charges so fast.
  • HDR-Capable camera with face recognition and video recording in 1080p.
  • Easy to use Fire OS based on the latest Android 4.4 with a favorite apps carousel, good on-screen keyboard and user accounts for family members. Amazon Instant Video that I get with Prime is nicely integrated.
  • Silk Browser. The browser is really fast and the compatibility is great.
  • Good choice of cases from third-party suppliers. I got one from iHarbort that fits really well.
  • Good support by email and phone but no video live chat. This might be US only.
  • Price. Even without the sale the regular price is really good compared to models by Samsung I.e.
  • 7″ and the black border together make the device perfect for holding in one hand. Even typing is possible with the thumb if necessary. Some might find the thickness of the device disturbing but I find it useful for holding it.
  • Last but not least the device is available in a range of colors and in the U.S. there is even a kids edition. This is not available yet in Europe apparently.

Cons:

  • Walled Garden. The App Store can’t compete with Google Play. You get the most important Apps but you can’t find everything in the Amazon App Store. The most recent titles like new games aren’t available either. The only good thing is that Amazon gives away free Apps from time to time. I also noticed Apps are a bit more expensive than in the Google play store.
  • No Google Apps like YouTube or Google Maps. Google seems to be pissed about Amazon using Android and putting Bing as the default search. There are alternative apps for the same though. The down side is that they are ad supported in most cases.
  • Battery doesn’t hold long but at least charges fast.
  • Buggy family profiles. In-App-Purchases can’t be transferred to a user profile although the App itself can be. Videos a family member records can’t get uploaded to the cloud storage. Family members can’t watch Amazon Instant Video.
  • Buggy Browser. Although it’s fast and renders sites correctly there are bugs like links not being opened from the Facebook app sometimes. Shared posts on Facebook get entered twice.

Here is a short hands on review by CNET: I highly recommend this Fire fan page with tons of tutorials and tips & tricks like side loading Google Play Apps without rooting: http://www.lovemyfire.com/

The tale of my AMD FX-9590 Easter-PC

2014-08-17_08-01-40

I usually never participate in sweepstakes. Last Easter I decided to participate in a sweepstake promoted on the AMD Facebook page for a change. The chellange was to find hidden easter eggs on an online shop and then put together a word from the letters on the eggs. I figured out the word (the riddle wasn’t easy for sure) and sent it in for the drawing. Surprisingly I won a high-end AMD PC worth 1900 Euro built by a German computer manufacturer that I don’t want to mention because I don’t want any bad press for them. After all they have been really nice to me. It just took some time till I had the PC running… like 3-4 months 😉 Initially the PC, an AMD FX-9590 based water cooled rig in a stylish white Corsiar 600T case arrived with

a.) a totally broken graphics card that turned out to be a 7970 instead of a R9 290X

b.) a H80i Corsair water cooler running at maximum RPM not throttling down being loud as hell and

c.) a missing SSD that was on the specs.

You can’t imagine the disappointment. I never won something that expensive and that broken!

2014-08-18_08-53-11

The company where I won the PC sent me a new graphics card as a replacement that was finally a R9 290X as listed on the specs. Unfortunately it either wasn’t really new (it didn’t come in a package but just in a foil bag – later they claimed it was from a bulk buy) or the reference design fan couldn’t cope with the heat of the GPU reaching 95° C on full load. After a week it stopped working correctly and artifacts showed up after booting from time to time. Meanwhile I found out why the water cooler was running so loud. The person who assembled the computer forgot to connect the water cooler pump heatsink element sitting on the CPU with the mainboard via an USB cable. While trying to plug in the wrong cable in it I broke the socket of the USB connector but the manufacturer sent me a completely new water cooler. That was reall nice by them. So far so good… The water cooler was still not throttling down. It turned out the Corsair Link software for the fan control is incompatible with Windows 8.1 that came with the PC. I had to manually change some entries in the registey after finding the solution on a forum. There I was now with a SSD, a new water cooler I managed to mount and get running properly and a randomly working graphics card. Of course the company where I won the PC promised to change the parts for free. I got a shock when they sent me a collection letter and thought I would need to give this case to a lawyer. It turned out to be a mistake. Then they sent me an all new R290 (no R290X) but one that was much better because it had 2 fans, a PowerColor Radeon R9 290 TurboDuo. This one came in a package and worked flawlessly. When using the PC for gaming I noticed freezes after 1-2 hours of playing. It turned out the CPU needs a more aggressive water cooler than the H80i but I was able to create a custom profile that runs on slow and silent 1000-1500 RPM in idle mode and moderately loud high 2000-2700 RPM in games while keeping the CPU stable at 4,7 GHz (depending on the room temperature).

2014-08-18_08-51-36

Generally speaking the PC has an outstanding performance that runs every game in stereoscopic 3D on at least 30 fps via Tridef and everything else in normal 3D on rock solid 60 fps on maxed out settings. It’s not very silent but you can get used to it. The noise level is barable in my opinion. As the AMD FX-9590 is the last of it’s kind in the lost arms race with Intel it’s a special feeling owning such a machine. The CPU wars in future won’t be fought in the high-end segment for gaming rigs! AMD lost the race there but placed their APUs in the PS4 and XB1 next-gen consoles. The CPU wars of the future will be fought in the tablet and mobile segment!

This PC might be even my last true Desktop rig. As an AMD fanboy maybe I’ll get a nice Kaveri Notebook with an AMD FX-7600P or A10-7300 APU for content creation and coding on Windows or Linux and a PlayStation 4 running an AMD APU for gaming. Intel will keep staying outside my Android tablets BTW… No matter how much they pay the tablet makers there is nothing better than an ARM SoC!

Medion Lifetab E7316

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Most reviews I read about the Medion Lifetab E7316 indicate the reviewers haven’t had the real device for testing and just tried to assess the specifications. I bought it on day-1 when it became available at my local Aldi store in Munich. I had to return the first device as it had a hardware problem with the touchscreen. A part of the touchscreen didn’t react to inputs randomly. My local Aldi supermarket changed it without any problems to a new one even though I bought it in a different location. I was lucky they still had a device I could get two days after the start of the sale. As I expected it was sold out but the lady at the supermarket pulled out the show case device for me. Let’s recap my experience with the device so far.

Pros:

  • Fast Cortex A9 ARM Quad-Core SoC with 1,6 GHz. Games like Need for Speed Most Wanted, Nova 3, Dead Trigger 2 or Modern Combat 4 run smoothly.
  • Android Jelly Bean. Pretty recent version with Google Play Store. Other low-cost tablets don’t even have that.
  • Visually appealing design with brushed metal on the back.
  • The black borders might look strange but are good for holding it.
  • Lightweight. It’s amazing how convenient it is holding the tablet.
  • Front and rear camera are nothing special but good enough for Skype and funny shots. I don’t think anyone really uses tablets for photography.
  • Sound volume is sufficient on 100%. Not that long ago tablets had much worse speakers.
  • Sufficient battery life with 4 hours. That’s fine for normal usage at home. It gets charged at night and used during the day.
  • Price: 99 EUR is simply outstanding!

Cons:

  • The display. It’s only 1024×600, not very sharp and has poor viewing angles. For games and video this is fine but longer reading hurts the eyes. The brightness can be turned up though.
  • 8 GB. Only 5,7 GB of are available for Apps. For casual games that’s OK but not for having several blockbuster titles installed at the same time.
  • The SD Card setup sucks. Photos are not saved to external cards when inserted. The internal memory emulates an SD card already. Apps can’t be moved to the SD card without rooting the tablet, using Link2SD or GL to SD and specially partitioned  SD cards. This doesn’t always work though . Link2SD or GL to SD sometimes can’t move games or loses either the link to the files on the SD card or even the entire mounting script.

The device is sold as Medion but it’s a Lenovo, the parent company of Medion from China that might be more familiar in general. The identifier is buried deep inside the system information though. The performance in benchmarks is on paid with the Asus Nexus 7: http://www.androidbenchmark.net/phone.php?phone=Lenovo+LIFETAB_E7316

Recap: The Lifetab E7316 is just perfect for gaming and doesn’t cost much.

The Snowden Effect

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The leaking of government and military material including the U.S. diplomatic cables by Bradley Manning deeply concerned me in 2010 as I assumed it can destabilize the relationships between the US and the rest of the world. It turned out everyone knew what Americans embassies and diplomats are and nobody really got upset. The US started using their embassies and consulates as spy outposts after 9/11. So far… so good. Obama and Clinton managed to keep the damage low.

The NSA material leak by Eward Snowden and the revelations that followed it are much more valuable than the Manning leaks and a true wake up call for ALL Internet users, engineers and the entire IT industry.

Let’s recap where privacy has been compromised so far:

  • US based Web Communication Services and Social Networks via PRISM (although most serious Internet companies check FISA requests and won’t give out information if not absolutely necessary)
  • Intercontinental traffic via NSA Upstream, GCHQ Tempora and most probably some Chinese program we don’t know the name of (there are indications for that)
  • Your PC Operating System like Windows (backdoors are known since 1999 and it can be infected by state-sponsored Trojans)
  • Your mobile Operating System may it be Android, iOS or BlackBerry OS (NSA thinks iPhone users with location services are zombies)
  • SSL certificates that are used on the web i.e. for online banking
  • Any hardware including routers going down to the PC BIOS and even CPU Microcode can be backdoored (Hauwei became famous for this)

The entire leak finally makes people understand that sending unencrypted Emails is like putting a letter in a plastic foil and sending it via post. Unencrypted Instant Messaging might be compared to writing your private messages on postcards. It makes governments around the world finally realize their information security has been compromised a long time ago and that they need to find new and safer methods of communicating. We now know that we live in an era of CYBER WAR after the COLD WAR ended.

Not only the US government betrayed the Internet but in large portions it has been them along with China, Russia, Israel, France and the UK. Read a great call to action to all engineers who helped creating the Internet to take it back:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/05/government-betrayed-internet-nsa-spying

The process has begun and there will be nothing that can stop it:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/12/ietf_floats_prismproof_plan_for_harder_internet/

Personally I started using OTR in Jabber and I support encrypted email projects like Mailpile:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mailpile-taking-e-mail-back

Eward Snowden destroyed his own life but for a very good cause. I’m confident we, the users and creators will take back the Internet. The absolutely crazy level of surveillance is an unjustified overreaction to the terror threat!

It couldn’t avoid the Boston Marathon bombing attacks although the older Tsarnaev brother even had a public YouTube channel with radical videos on it. It’s the proof this global surveillance system doesn’t work. It didn’t work before 9/11 and it doesn’t work today because the real bad guys don’t touch any device with internet access. This is why Americans had such a hard time finding Osama Bin Laden. In the end it was not torture nor any snooped email that lead to him. It was a clever woman in the CIA who connected the dots applying classic detective work.

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