Does memrise help you remember stuff?

August 29th, 2016

I use a couple of memorization tools…. anymemo, memrise, mnemosyne. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. In this post, I would like to divulge my opinion on memrise.

Overall, I have been using memrise for app. 553 days. The app encourages streaks – continous days of usage. For one set of vocabulary, I’m on my 333rd consecutive day – before that, the website was down so I lost my previous 200 or so day streak.

By the way, no one at memrise has ever apologized for that one day of downtime nor was there ever any explanation posted on the webiste. Shame, shame….

Memrise comes in two options: You can either login to the website and learn facts and vocabulary there or you can install the memrise app.

Please keep in mind that I’m using memrise to learn Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Hebrew. The relevance will be clear after the next paragraph…

The algorithm behind either version is the same – the main difference is the input and its configuration. On the website, you can choose to type vocabulary by using your physical keyboard whereas in the app, memrise provides an onscreen keyboard. Why does that make a difference?

On my pc/laptop, I have succesfully configured Mandarin and Japanese input for which I can use the latin alphabet as a basis. To type 漢字 in Japanese, I switch to the Japanese input and type “kanji” (Enter). The same principle works for Mandarin.

Korean on the other hand uses a totally different keyboard and so far I have not found a latin alphabet-bases input configuration. A colleague uses a self-made paper layout on top of his physical keyboard. Until I have to get really close and intimate with Korean, I will remain on the current low-key configuration, thank you.

As for Hebrew which is a right-to-left language (totally freaks me out in vocabulary lists in Excel), I don’t know. I’m just learning some basic words and phrases for the time being, so I have not looked into any input methods on my pc/laptop.

The exercises on memrise come in several patterns, but this can widely differ from course by course, which are contributed by memrise members. Naturally, the quality of the courses can also differ…

Most courses come with cards in English–><foreign_language> and the opposite (<foreign_language>->English). The “better” courses provided audio files for the <foreign_language> cards which can be really helpful for any foreign language, especially tonal languagues.

The “written” cards come in the following variety: Typing, recognizing and selecting. All in all, a good variety.

Before a card is marked as learned, you have to repeat it appr. six or seven times in learning mode. Afterwards it is moved to the “learned” heap and reappears according to a long-time memorization algorithm, similar to supermemo, anymemo, mnemosye and so on.

The downsides of memrise (the app, not the website) is the development. I was invited to participate as beta tester for memrise but after watching the google+ group for a couple of weeks, I decided to leave the group and not update memrise if I can avoid it.

The guys behind memrise basically make the same mistake all developers seem to make…. features over fixes and implemenation of features that do not make sense. I can understand the rationale behind this, but first of all I want a working app not new features all the time.

Also, there is considerable lack of communication about development and features. I have not seen a properly maintained list of bugs (open, in work, fixes). Frankly, the whole process of reporting bugs until a fix is implemented seems not very mature. A lot of users in the groups simply state “it’s not working pls fix it”. The more communicative users at least state their type of mobile phone, what version of ios or android and how to recreate the bug.

If you just are looking for a different way to learn vocabulary, check out memrise – at least I think it’s a good way to learn.

Wirtschaftsinformatiker mit eidg. FA

June 29th, 2016

Uff… nach Schule von Oktober 2014 bis April 2016 und zwei Tagen schwierige Prüfung…. geschafft! Ich bin offiziell Wirtschaftsinformatiker mit eidg. Fachausweis *freu*

Was soll ich sagen…. es war wie viele andere Prüfungen:
Fragen zu Inhalt, der in keinem Lehrbuch stand
Fragen fast wortwörtlich aus den Lehrbüchern kopiert
Formulismus wichtiger als Inhalt
Keine praktische Erfahrung nötig

Aber ich will mich ja nicht beklagen, immerhin habe ich die Prüfung geschafft. Trotzdem, ein wenig bitteres Gefühl bleibt schon zurück…

Why I quit after a streak of almost 300 days…

February 7th, 2015

When browsing, there are occasionally posts like “Useful websites” and the language-minded links listed usually never fail to mention DL lets you learn languages for free.

I signed up to learn some more Italian. At that time the course was not available for native German speakers so I changed the language preferences to English and signed up for the Italian/English course.
DL tries to keep you motivated by giving you a virtual coin if you complete a 10 days streak, two for a twenty day streak and so on. You also get virtual coins by completing a course section.

As the title says, I had completed a streak of almost 300 days when all my frustrations on DL erupted and I deactivated my account.

Why? Several reasons:

1) Whoever builds up the examples database of English sentences to be translated into Italian is not a native English speaker so the sentences sound weird and unnatural. Apparently not all English sentences are proofread either.
This leads you to actually learn terrible English sentences by heart rather than learning Italian.

2) The sections are theme-based e.g. sports, weather, business etc. If you translate everything theme-related correctly but write “this” instead of “that”, the whole sentence is marked wrong. After a couple of innocent mistakes like that in a lesson, the time-based repetition mechanism marks the lesson as “unlearned” which means you might be an expert on sports/business/weather but you have to repeat the lesson anyway.
My way around that was to build up a database of sentences, over a thousand in the end from which I could copy the correct answers. Not the optimal way to learn a language, I know, but as I am prone to those small but costly errors, I saw no other way.

3) Per problem, there is a discussion board. Usually, the more comments there are, the more controversial a sentence is. People post equally correct answers and improvements, ask about details and such but if the moderators read those posts, they never do anything about it. Still, the community within DL is quite helpful and friendly.

4) Reporting is virtually useless because rarely ever someone acts on it. Per problem you can also write a problem report. I’ve written dozens and dozens and only occasionally got a reply. When I started the German course (as a native speaker, I wanted to see how quickly I can finish the course) I found so many sentences that were weird and wrote so many reports but I never heard anything back. And I’m not the only one… people usually post “reported on xx/xx/xx” on the discussion board and still months later, only the crappy original solution would be accepted.

5) A language is a living thing, there are dozens of correct way to translate a sentence and yet, the solution coming from a db, can only correct a small amount of typos. Same as in other languages, there are differences between German in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Why would I have to think like a German if my answer is perfectly correct in Austria or Switzerland? Imagine you taking a real-life class and the teacher would mark your answer as incorrect just because the teacher hails from a different part of a country?

6) The algorithm that chooses the problems still needs a lot of work. I’ve worked through lessons such as sports where I had to consecutively answer the same problem three times.

7) The problem databases are one-way only but not vice versa. A correct solution to a translation problem might be marked as incorrect if you put the same reply into the translation problem coming from the other language.

The good thing about DL? It’s free – that is if I don’t count the keyboards I smashed in frustration. I feel much better now that I’ve quit DL.

Recording in Cubase 7.5 using the Tascam US-366

February 7th, 2015

I upgraded my audio recording setup to Win8.1 and Cubase 7.5 (64bit) and installed the Tascam US-366, a USB-soundcard.

At first, I had a hard time finding the correct settings for recording but after a bit of fiddling I am able to record a drum track (drum computer) and a guitar track at the same time.

If you’re still lost, read on. Please be warned that this post is very basic. I’ll explain how to record mono tracks and I still have some questions regarding my own setup. But I hope I’ll be able to put you on the right tracks *chuckle*

1) Install the US-Tascam 366 as explained in the the guide. Make it your default sound device in Windows. Set it to Multi Track (switch on the back)

2) Open a Cubase project, set the VST connections – Input as follows:


That is, if you’re recording a mono track. Also, I’m not sure if these are the default settings for the TASCAM. These settings work for my setup, maybe you will have to change them.

3) Set the VST connections – Outputs as follows:


* Note: You can test the output settings quite easily: Import an audio track into Cubase (menu File -> Import -> Import audio file…) and play around with the Outputs until you can hear the music playing. Make sure that the correct Audio Device is selected and that you can also play audio files in Windows e.g. using VLC

4) In a project, add an audio track. And here comes the tricky part: In the track inspector, the correct input and output must be set as well:

track_presetI used this track for the guitar. The second track for the drum machine has the input “Mono In 2”

Basically, that’s it! Hope this helps you some, be creative!

Bonus tip: If you want to record both tracks at the same time, open the mixer (F3) and select the tracks you want to record – provided you set them to separate inputs as explained above:

MixerOf course, naming the tracks helps the overview quite a lot…



I wrote I’m using Win 8.1 for recording. Please don’t get me wrong. Win 8.1 and its farked up mix of GUI paradigms is the worst version of Windows I’ve ever come across. Usually I prefer to work on Ubuntu but Cubase does not come with a Linux version. And Mac OS X is getting worse and worse. I know there are alternatives on Linux, thank you. But I’ve visited an expensive course for Cubase, so that’s that.
Anyway, the only good thing about Win 8.1 is its quick boot compared to Windows 7. And once you install Classic Shell you basically get a usable Windows version.

Connect to Printer fails with 0x00000057

October 20th, 2014

Maybe this helps someone…

Occasionally in our environment someone tries to install a shared printer from the printer server and fails. The error message is something like “Operation failed with error ox00000057” as seen in the image below:


Chances are that the printer in question is differently configured compared to other printers of the same type. Check the protocol settings in the port configuration on the printer server first!

Then, as the user who got this error message, remove all installed printers of the same manufacturer.

Next, stop the spool service (on the command line is fine, issue “net stop spool”)

Remove the printer drivers, on an x64 OS usually located under C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\x64\3

E.g. Xerox printers usually have a folder “Xerox” there, delete it. Also delete any files starting with x2… as they are Xerox files too. When in doubt, check the file details… for details! HP printers files, of course, have different names and there might not be folder called “HP”
Some files might be reported to be in use in Explorer. Simply restart, then try deleting these files again.

Next, start regedit and navigate to “HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print\Environments\Windows x64\Drivers\Version 3”. If there are keys/subkeys and other entries of the manufacturer whose drivers you have to get rid off, delete them.

Then, start an elevated cmd (“elevated” being the keyword here) and enter the following followed by enter:
pnputil -e > c:\drivers.txt
This will put a file called drivers.txt in C: listing all installed .inf files. The files is easier to search than the console output. Look for the manufacturer as listed by “Driver package provider”. Each entry lists the the name of the .inf file was used to install the drivers.
Deleting the drivers from the repository is simple: pnputil -f -d <name_of_the_inf_file>.inf which will remove the inf file from the repository and the associated drivers.

Reboot and delete any remaining drivers from the spool\drivers folder.

Then reinstall the printer.

威廉·泰尔(Willhelm Tell)

October 12th, 2014

威廉·泰尔(Willhelm Tell)
今天我给你介绍一位瑞士的历史上名人。他叫 威廉·泰尔。他的像被印铸在瑞士五法郎钱币上。
根据传说,泰尔生活在大概七白年前。在施維茨州(Schwyz)地方,他可能做了农人和猎人。那个时候还没有那个叫瑞士的国家。那地方本来是哈布斯堡君主国(Habsburg Monarchy)的一部分。当时是现在奥地利(Austria),匈牙利(Hungary)和捷克斯洛伐克(Czechoslovakia)。

Ubuntu -> Wine -> Steam -> Portal 2 sound issues

May 2nd, 2013

Umpf… looks like I missed April although I promised myself to add at least one post per month. But recently nothing really interesting happened so what can I do? :s

One thing that’s been on my mind for a while though is a sound issue I had in Portal 2: All dialogue files were usually played at twice the normal speed. I turned on captions so I didn’t miss out on the story but it’s not quite the same isn’t it.
The symptoms were mostly the same:
-During the startup video (the valve guy) sounds was really jittery
-Diagogue files were played faster than normal
-Constant white noise in the background

Occasionally, the following fixes worked:
-In the options, change the sound quality from its current to something else (high, medium, low)
-Switch the sound environment from headphones to 2 speakers (almost identical settings) or the other way around. The other sound settings didn’t work for me at all.

During increasing desperate tries I tried deleting all local Portal 2 sound files hoping that Steam would replace them. That didn’t help so I downloaded the whole package again (in Library, right-click Portal 2, go to Properties, switch to the tab “Local Content” and select download again. Uh… don’t quote me on this, I’m writing this from memory so some names and places might be wrong.

What fixed my problem in the end was an upgrade from Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pengolin) to Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) which updated (refreshed?) the Wine settings. Wine is the same version in 12.04 and 13.04 but when starting Steam the first time Wine was writing out some updated settings.

In the end, it could be that my Wine configuration was just marbled. I’ve been trying to get Simcity running (any version) but without success and maybe that messed up Wine. My suggestions, if you suffer from the the same issue, are therefore:
-Reconfigure Wine
-Check for newer version of Steam
-Download the local content again
-Play around with the Audio settings in Portal 2 (sound quality and speaker configuration)

HTH & cheers

What’s going on with Ubuntu Certified Professional?

March 25th, 2013

Last week, I took the official Apple “Mac OS X 10.8 Essential Support Course” followed up by the official test. I passed so I’m a Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) on top of all the other acronyms I hold.

Although I don’t work on Mac OS X every day, I have a good working knowledge of the general handling and the underlying OS. The course, which ran at quite a fast pace, summed up all the important points very nicely. The test featured the occasional tricky question and a score of 73% or higher was required to pass. And I passed.

We used the official Mac OS X 10.8 course book which contains precise information on Mountain Lion (although to be fair, the author probably only had to replace ‘Lion’ with ‘Mountain Lion’ to release a ‘new’ version or so). I actually understand now what happens after the kernel is loaded and what processes produce the login screen and what happens when a user logs in and so on.

On the other hand, the last official book on Ubuntu Certified Professional (UCP) was released in 2008 and was already out of date half a year later because of the energetic activism the good people at Canonical display all year round. No wonder that with all the changes that happened to Linux and all the changes that Ubuntu brought on itself, I still don’t feel secure about the internal workings on Ubuntu. Sure, there’s source code but I don’t think anyone actually reads that to get a general understanding of an OS. The man pages? Please! You mean those cryptic writings where the overview section is never really helpful because you need to have a PhD for reading man pages in order to understand them? Ah yes, the lack of useful examples is another gripe I have with man pages.

After passing LPIC 1, I was all fired up to become an UCP as well. But the lack of concise information put me off and the ever growing gap between the OS and the documentation put me off even more. Until today, no update to the Ubuntu Certified Professional book (available on has been released. I guess, even the author got fed up and felt he could use his time in better ways.  I sincerely doubt anything useful will be released in the future on that particular topic. And with Canonical pushing Ubuntu into a its own niche a bit more with every release, Ubuntu will have a hard time to become a viable candidate to compete against Windows in the enterprises – if that was ever their goal. Accordingly, the value of being a UCP shrinks and shrinks. Actually I’ve never really met anyone who was certified.

Maybe I should focus on LPIC 2 again, too…

wget, busybox, ipv6…

February 28th, 2013

In our work environment, we use pxe and preseed to roll out Ubuntu 12.04 installations. In the late command, we even splat puppet standalone and a subversion repository on it. Works nicely.

Last week however, this tested routine stopped working in a very early stage – when wget in busybox tries to figure out which release of Ubuntu to pull from the mirror server.

The actual code line was: wget -q ftp://somehost.domain.local/file -O – | grep -E ‘^(Suite|Codename):’
This line didn’t return anything, so the installation got stuck. On my pc, the same line returned something useful.

In the end, the problem was that ipv4 and ipv6 were configured automatically and wget in busybox prefers ipv6 over ipv4 but if wget fails, it does not try again with ipv4. And since it comes with busybox, you can’t force a protocol family (see ‘man wget’ for further infos).

The solution was to supply another kernel parament in the pxe configuration: ipv6.disable=1

There are some users who report that this line does not work for them. Maybe they got the spelling slightly wrong or they put it at the wrong place but with this additional parameter, our setup is working again.

The sad thing about this is that this problem was already bug-reported in 2007 but the status was put to ‘wontfix’ and closed. Way to go 🙁

And I only wasted about 6 hours of working hours for that crap.