AWS Cloudformation template for OpenVPN server creation

Are you traveling for Christmas to a country where Netflix/Hulu isn’t available? Are you worried you might resort to violence against your own family once you’re fed up with them? Here’s a VPN server template to help the situation (and keep you away from prison).

Netflix is brilliant and there’s no better time to catch up on your Jessica Jones episodes than Christmas break. But what if your family resides in a country where Netflix isn’t available yet? ­čś▒ Fear not, there’s a way to circumvent geolocation-based legal barriers that protect, in my case, Eastern Europe from excellent comic book-based television. First, you’re gonna need a fast internet connection.1 Second, a VPN server into the country where Netflix is available, e.g., Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

update Jan 6, 2016: Oh, well. VPN servers can still be useful for other purposes.

To create one really quickly and cheaply (and destroy it as easily once it’s not needed), it’s best to use Cloudformation, an orchestration/templating tool that AWS provides. With Cloudformation, all the details2 of your stack are included in one JSON file which, once uploaded via AWS Console, deploys the stack defined by the template. The JSON file below defines an EC2 instance together with a security group suited for OpenVPN: Continue reading “AWS Cloudformation template for OpenVPN server creation”


A couple of weeks ago my company sent me over to London for 6 weeks to do some project work for one of our clients. I’m back in Munich now, but everyone’s been asking me how it was and I have surprisingly many things to say about my stay in the UK. Thus, to ease my pain of having to tell everyone the same bunch of observations, I decided to group them all neatly into a blog post. Here goes.

London is big and crowded

Depending on the definition, the London metropolitan area has between 8,5 and 14 mln inhabitants. By European standards this makes it a huge city, and having never lived in a place that had more than 2,5 mln people, you can really feel the difference. The most visible effect of that enormous size is of course overcrowding.

I remember visiting London a couple of years back, admiring the architecture of old tube stations with the small, nomen omen, tubular size of the trains, and finding it all adorable. Well, tell you what, it loses all its charm when you try to get on a Jubilee line train at 8:30 AM.

Moving around the city during morning or evening rush hours means standing in some sort of a line most of the time. You queue for the trains (I never managed to get on the first or even the second Jubilee line train in the morning, not to mention the Central line), you queue to the stairs, and then in many other places you also queue even when you leave the station; for example at Faringdon station if you want to cross the street in the direction of Leather Lane the queue (~50m long) to the zebra crossing starts right at the station exit.

Continue reading “London”

Dropbox shuts down Mailbox


Yesterday Dropbox announced that they will close their Mailbox app and service in February.1 This is yet another case of a big company acquiring an email-client startup and shutting it down, and it doesn’t surprise me. Nobody wants email clients (except for me and my girlfriend), because GMail’s web interface is good enough or even great for most people. Writing an email client is deceptively hard, and yields relatively small payoff. Also, Dropbox needs to concentrate on its collaborative tools efforts in order to be able to compete with Google Drive (a game it’s late to, if you ask me) and now that Inbox copied most of Mailbox’s features, there’s simply no point in trying to win GMail’s userbase.

The only thing that bugs me with situations like this, i.e., when a big company decides to shut down a niche product (especially a product of an acquired startup), is that they don’t release the technology as an open source project. What could possibly hurt Google to release Sparrow’s source to the community, or Dropbox to do the same with Mailbox? We’ll never know I guess.

  1. They are also shutting down Carousel in March. 

New Atheism

Stephen LeDrew wrote an interesting post about the influence the so-called “New Atheism” movement had on society, pointing out some intriguing similarities between our militant atheists and, surprisingly, the far right wing conservatism. The one observation which I don’t find completely accurate, and I think it’s because I live in Europe, is that the “New Atheism” isn’t regarded highly in well-educated circles any more. I found a surprising number of people working in philosophy, logic, computer science and especially in natural sciences to still cherish Dawkins et al., which was always rather surprising to me. It most likely has to do with a rather loose coupling between “New Atheists” and any political movements in Europe (modulo UK perhaps?). 1

In any case, the article is worth a read, and LeDrew’s book lands on my wishlist.

Thanks for the link, Truls.

  1. K made a good comment here by pointing out another difference between aggressive atheists in Europe and in the US: here they don’t have an aggressive counterpart. Religious fundamentalism especially in its protestant form is extremely rare in Europe, and there isn’t much political debate in which Christian fundamentalists would be visible. This may also explain why “New Atheists” don’t see themselves as avantgarde on the old continent.