Summary December 2020

It looks like December has been the most fruitful and event-rich month of the year.

Dog

I’ve always wanted to have a dog, and about 4 years when I realized things are going sour with my finances, and the investments I made are going to require most of my money, I had to put the idea of owning a dog away. Since few months ago after I got rid of that project, the thought of owning a dog started to become more real. But which breed?

I prefer shepherd-like dogs, and have I had a house with a garden, I’d opt for 2 dogs: Husky and German Shepherd. One for “fun” and play, the other for protection. But living in a smallish flat with two kids and having a large dog is a massive headache. Not only do they require their own space (like every other human), but they also need more food and time/energy to keep them happy and healthy. So I decided to start looking for the perfect breed. These were my requirements:

  • child-friendly: the dog must play well with the kids. And while I don’t need it to keep them busy and play with them all day long, it cannot be agressive towards them, e.g. like Aussie that could gently bite the legs to keep the “herd” under control
  • relatively active and smart: even though I spend most of my day in front of the screen, one of the reasons I want a dog is to force me to spend more time outdoors. As a result I need a companion to have at least two hour-long walks a day
  • size: small to medium size so it is comfortable living with us in a restricted space which is our flat

My family had few other wishes like dog’s smell and shedding. The absence of both would be ideal. After reading about various breeds, doing online tests to find out my perfect type, and stalking strangers on the street. I was suggested to meet the breeder of border collies, who is also a dog trainer, and talk to her about my wishes. And she gave me a list:

  • border collie
  • schipperke
  • boston terrier

While the first two look somewhat similar, the boston terrier is a visible outlier in the list. I was told by many that this is the perfect breed for families. It’s active, it’s fun, it can easily stay at home alone without causing damage. It loves to play with children, a lot. And most importantly, it doesn’t smell and shed. As a bonus, they have a good health track record (unline their cousins Frenchies). There is however a huge drawback too: the dog is not a good fit for long hiking trips through the woods. And in summer I do go on 15-30km/day camping trips. So far this is also the only dog I haven’t had a walk with.

Natalia, the dog trainer, owns six border collies! Six! And this dog was on the top of her suggestion list. While she might have some personal interest to “sell” me her puppies, I felt she was genuine in explaining all the pros and cons of these dogs, and listened to me carefully when I told her about my circumstances and wishes. I did, however, have an opposing opinion too about border collies from a friend who owns one. It happened so that he bought his pup from Natalia too. The reason for the negative opinion is that this dog migh be too much for me: the time and energy requirements are just too high.

I found an owner of Schipperke via Instagram, and just wrote them directly. After a few weeks we met for a walk, and to my surprise I immediately felt that this little black guy is the perfect dog for me. They’re the smallest shephers in the world. As a result, they have all the qualities of a true shepherd dog (smart, active, cute), but are also compact, and feel comfortable in a small city space. Fred, the black guy I met, cause a wave of emotions that I never had towards any other dog I met.

I still have ~1 year before I’m “allowed” to buy a dog by my family, so there is time to meet more owners and dogs. Hopefully in January I can meet the owner of Malinois, the belgian shepherd dog I once considered too (but rejected for the size and energy requirements).

RC car

While baby steps, I had some progress with the RC car project. Found several friends with a 3D-printer, and managed to print several prototype mounts for the motors. The 3D printing tech is amazing, and have I had one at home, I would have iterated much faster. As of this writing, I have a working mount that holds two motors and attaches to the chassis. The drawbacks are that the structure is still very fragile and rough around the edges, so I need to do 1-3 more design iterations. While doing so, I also need to start thinking about the motor/wheel connectors, something that would transfer the rotation energy from the motor to the wheel. There isn’t much space in there, so either I need to be really smart with my designs, or trim/shorten the existing parts (which I don’t want to).

It is still too early to think about the remote control of the car, but I wanted to do it using PS3 joystick. Saw the ad on the Internet for a broken PS3 with 2 working joysticks, and bought it. Who knows, maybe I can fix the console too.

Sport

The month of December has been the worst for my sports activity. Most of the time our older child stayed at home due to illness, and it was impossible for me to pick a time and do some excersizes. As a result I did just 2 sessions throughout the whole month. Hopefully January will be better.

Evening activities

I don’t watch TV, I rarely watch TV series, and most of the evenings we have to be pretty silent since either of the kids can wake up. So I spend most of the evenings behind the computer screen. Just like my days. This is one of the reasons I want a dog - to get rid of that habit and spend 1-2h outside in the evening.

Anyway, for €5 we bought a 1000-piece puzzle that took 3 weeks to put together. This is also the rare moment that I bought an actual paper book. The last time I did this was during my university. Since then I’ve been either reading on Kindle, on my phone, or listening to audio books. Recently I found interest in history and philosophy, and was recommended The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. Reading on paper is a completely different feeling which I long forgot. But it is amazing, and I think I will start doing that more.

Baking

It’s interesting that many engineers love baking. Recently I found out that the author of one of the most famous bread baking blogs is also a software engineer. I had an on and off stint with sourdough few years ago, then during the first lockdown in March, and decided to resume it again.

Sometimes my loafs would be good, sometimes bad, one time I scored 10/10 perfect bread, but couldn’t repeat it next time. And every time I was following the recipe by the letter (which I rarely do with any other type of baking or coooking). And so I decided to finally dig into the science behind the sourdough and approach the problem more methodically. I want to find out how the type of flour affects the end result; what’s the difference between the low and high protein flour; how much does the temperature play the role, and so one. Luckily there are quite a few books which dive into this and other topics like chemistry.

This hasn’t yielded any results yet, but I used the remaining of my starter to bake the two final loaves of bread and start fresh in 2021.

Work

There were 2 events that are worth mentioning and remembering. Both related to security.

We got contacted by a whitehat who found a security issue and reported it. This was also his way of marketing his own security consultancy. The bug was fixed the same day, and I thanked the reporter for help.

Another day on Sunday morning some Russian spammers found out they could automate user registration process and send semi-custom emails on our behalf. In the span of 15 minutes we had 4500 new users, and a queue of nearly 5000 emails. This brought the whole website down for a few minutes until I disabled registration and cleared the queue.

Luckily, we have lots of notifications about different events, and that time I was still at home near the computer. It took a few days to add captcha to the signup page, and patch the other holes which allowed too much automation or had some kind of email-sending functionality.

What is interesting here is not that we got “hacked” but rather the fact that I have background in information security, worked as a security auditor in a famous multinational consultancy, and am fairly paranoid. But thinking about these incidents in retrospective I think the reason these issues slipped through to the code is because I am a solopreneur. There are just too many things that I have to keep in my head: sales, marketing, support, product ownership, planning, coding, finances. And so security becomes secondary. You start to take shortcuts like everyone else.

Overall, December was both eventful and not.