The first 20 hours

Here is the trick to learn just about anything. With learning I mean to “get going” in some direction; not to become the world’s best expert. Just “get going”. You could also say that it is merely a trick to “get into the flow”.

For instance, getting into the flow in some course. It costs you 20 hours only.

Check out the 20-minutes TED-Talk video here:

Here is the short version what you need to do. It consists of 4 steps only:

  1. Deconstruct the skill: What do you want to achieve? Break apart the skill.
  2. Learn enough to self-correct. Start with simple tasks. Learn just enough to start practicing.
  3. Remove practice barriers. Remove distractions, TV, Internet. This will need some will power!
  4. Practice at least 20 hours. Take for instance an hour a day.

You will be done in 3 to 4 weeks.

In 4 weeks we have Easter Monday. Try it out. With the course material in Rechnerorganisation, for instance. Or Rechnernetze und -Organsiation. Go ahead. Just 1 hour a day.

Being “in the flow” is fun.

Let me know about your experiences.



Sapere aude! Dare to know!

The spring semester 2018 is about to start. The registration numbers for the two courses I am teaching for bachelor students have just hit 700, and are still rising.

As usual, I am trying to get myself in the right mood for coping with this huge amount of young curiosity.

Luck struck me yesterday when listening to “Diagonal” in Austria’s best radio channel OE1. They talked about David Byrne and his new album “American Utopia”, his “Bicycle Diaries”, and his recent talks with the title “Reasons To Be Cheerful”.

In this radio show, the new book by Steven Pinker, “Enlightment Now” was mentioned. The sub-title of this book is “The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”.

Quickly afterwards I had Pinker’s book on my e-book reader. After having spent reading this book for two hours or so, I decided to use this topic as the main theme governing my courses on “Computer Organisation”.

What is “Enlightment”?

Well, in his famous 1784 essay “What Is Enlightenment?”, the philosopher Immanuel Kant described it as follows:

“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is the incapacity to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. Such tutelage is self-imposed if its cause is not lack of intelligence, but rather a lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another.”

Let me cite the original German wording:

“Aufklärung ist der Ausgang des Menschen aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit. Unmündigkeit ist das Unvermögen, sich seines Verstandes ohne Leitung eines anderen zu bedienen. Selbstverschuldet ist diese Unmündigkeit, wenn die Ursache derselben nicht am Mangel des Verstandes, sondern der Entschließung und des Muthes liegt, sich seiner ohne Leitung eines anderen zu bedienen.”

And the next sentence is this:

“Sapere aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen! ist also der Wahlspruch der Aufklärung.”

“Dare to think!”

This is what I would like to teach my students. And the guiding ideas should be Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

We currently seem to have far to little of this element visible in the daily discussions over the state of this planet.

Welcome to my courses.

We’re rolling. Bachelor@IAIK 2018 is on.

What a start!

Roughly 30 students started at IAIK with their Bachelor thesis projects on Tuesday this week.

We researchers at IAIK really enjoy the enthusiasm of these students. We never had a greater number of students being interested in the unique format “Bachelor@IAIK” that has been offered by IAIK for more than 10 years now.

Within the next weeks, these 30 students will work hard to get their thesis projects done.
With 15 advisors we try to offer an attractive environment for these young “research apprentices”, including offices, coffee, and lots of attention.

Friday, 9 March, the students will come out with their first results in the “Poster Session”.
In case you’re interested in the projects, just pass by after Friday and have a look at this year’s projects. The posters can be found in the ground floor in Inffeldgasse 16a, the home of IAIK.

Feel free to pop up at IAIK for talking to us about your own future Bachelor thesis project. Alternatively, just might as well just ask the students themselves.



On the move

Was just bicycling home in heavy snowfall.

What a fun. Snow. Fresh air. Independent. Invincible.

Was thinking about how much “positive vibes” I have gotten from bicycling throughout the past 30 years of my life.

My conclusion: Definitely better than the typical Austrian’s “daily beer”.  Moreover: No hangover.

I was already age 35 when I seriously started considering to start bicycling as a lifestyle.

Apparently, it is never too late.

I got into bicycling as a counter reaction to the all too “idiotic use of cars” I have experienced in the US; after returning to Austria, I have found that this behavior was copied over here, too.

Thus: You can learn about Austria while being abroad.

Being a bicyclist, you are by nature forced to defend yourself against some of the fellow auto-mobilists who think that you are a nuisance.

As a result of this, I was one of the first wearers of bicycle helmets in Graz — if not the first one. Moreover, I also had a nice little mirror attached to my helmet to notice the attitude of car drivers approaching from behind early on. Both gadgets I imported from the US in the late 1980s. With my mirror-equipped helmet I became a rather known figure: the “have-you-seen-this-weird-bicyclist.” I enjoyed it.

Meanwhile, in 2018, I can see many fellow bicyclists in Austria not caring about their head at all. Ignorant. Too stupid. I pity them. Sorry. Wrong choice.

During the 30 years of wearing a bicycle helmet I have made use of the helmet at least 3 times, i.e. once every 10 years on average: The helmet bewared me from severe head damage, maybe even brain damage.

I am not counting the numerous incidents of falling with my mountain bike on some off-road track. I am just talking of hitting the Graz asphalt with my head.

Just now I am planning to make a bicycle tour to North Cape. With helmet. And tent. And all the other paraphernalia.

I am also giving away for free some of my books about bicycling:

– Radtouren im Tessin
– Radtouren in Südtirol
– Mit dem Rad zu Kultur & Natur (Burgenland, Westungarn, Südoststeiermark)
– Südost-Frankreich per Rad
– Schweiz per Rad
– Mit dem Mountainbike auf den Spuren der Inkas
– Stadtradeln. Kleine Philosophie der Passionen
– The big race across America
– Auf nach Asien
– Rad-Abenteuer Welt (Band 1 und Band 2)
– Tibets wilder Osten
– Westcoast-Story
– Bike-Abenteuer Afrika
– Das Europa-Bike-Buch

Here is the trick: You get a book by (1) proving to me that you usually wear a bike helmet, and (2) you are not coming too late.

Recently, in “Kleine Zeitung” they asked whether it should be forbidden to bicycle on Graz roads upon snow conditions. After all, bicyclists are hindering the automobilists who have it urgent.

Last weekend I spent in Stockholm. It was also snowing. I told a friend about this weird question. Here was her answer:

(1) In Jämtland, this is a province in northern Sweden, they first clean the roads. As long as the other “traffic areas” (for pedestrians, for bicyclists) are not clean, all traffic participants use the road. In the presence of pedestrians, the cars “just go slow”.

(2) In Stockholm, they first start cleaning the pedestrian areas. Only later, the streets get cleaned. Thus, car drivers are not treated as “first class citizens” in city traffic. Moreover, bicyclists usually queue in front of cars on intersections. This also indicates a clear priority.

By the way: Did you know that Johann Theurl, a retired vice rector of TU Graz and former member of IAIK, was the first to paint bicycle shapes on streets in Graz? He started with what is now known as “Fahrradweg”.

Move on. You have not been moving for too long.

Another free giveaway: 9 books on cryptology

Apparently, you, the readers of this blog sphere, are not into “historical” guitar magazines. No one showed any interest in my recent offer of giving away my collection for free.

Could it be that you are unaware of the fact that music is science? At least, music was considered science until not too long ago. Well, until the 17th century, at least. For me, math and music share the same space in my brain. In case you never came across this, listen to any of Johann Sebastian Bach’s pieces. Other good choices are music from  Schönberg or Webern. Or — even better — read Douglas Hostadter’s “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid”, a must-read for computer science students.

Today, I would like to offer 9 of my books on cryptology as a giveaway. The giveaway will not be for free, however. In order to get the books, you need to give me a useful answer  to the following question which touches the connection between math and music:

In music, an octave means double frequency, i.e. the frequency relation 2:1. Likewise, a fifth means a frequency relation of 3:2. It is common to think of stacking fifths. This is called the “circle of fifths”. If one puts 2 fifths over the note C, one gets the note D. This corresponds to squaring 3:2, i.e. 9:4.

How many fifths do you need to stack to get back to some note C again? And why do you need to cheat here? Who became known for coming up with a “hack” to this problem.

I am offering:

  • Menezes et al.: Handbook of Applied Cryptography
  • Stinson: Cryptography Theory and Practice
  • Schneier: Applied Cryptography
  • Rosing: Implementing Elliptic Curve Cryptography
  • Knudsen: Java Cryptography
  • Pincock et al.: Geheime Codes
  • Levy: Crypto
  • Singh: Geheime Botschaften
  • Rijmen: The Design of Rijndael

(The winner needs to pick up the books in my office.)

Preparing for new frontiers

It’s all too funny. I have been calling TU Graz my professional home since 1972. Yes, 1972. No typo. In fall of 1972 I started into a quite astonishing personal journey. With various quite interesting interruptions, I have been hanging out at TU Graz for almost 46 years now. Turning 65 later this year, it is time to think what to do next.

However, it is also time to summarize. A public summary, you might ask. Why this? Leave us alone. Who’s interested?

You might be right. Who’s interested?

So let me try to be of some use for some of you. Here is an example:

Since I will leave Austria by the end of 2018, I currently try to get rid of “stuff” that I no longer seem to need. For instance, approximately 150 (or more) old guitar magazines including their accompanying CDs. Years 1995 until 2005 or so. For example, “Guitar Techniques”, “Guitarist”, “Guitar – The magazine”, and similar. I give them away for free. If you’re interested, just let me know. If you happen to be one of my (current, former, future) students, even better: you have an advantage.

Here’s my personal background in brief: I started playing in bands in 1969 at the age of 16. I played with bands named “Promotion” and “Moneybox”. Later I have worked with a band called “Magic” with band members who became known and might still be known to some of the older among the readers: For instance Günther Timischl, Boris Bukowski, and Robby Musenbichler. At TU Graz, I happened to become the first graduate of “Toningenieur” in 1979. For various reasons, I have not started as a professional in music after this. But this is another story. However, I still own a lot of music gear — and use it also. Just warmed up my Mesa Boogie and ran a few riffs on my Telecaster. Besides gear, I own all these old guitar magazines which I was about to throw into the garbage container last weekend. But then I thought about writing this blog instead.

If you are not into music: I intend to try to get rid of a lot more “stuff” during the next weeks and months. Watch this blog space. I will advertise it here.


Meltdown, Spectre, and all that Jazz

As a teacher, I am usually getting embarrassed to hear students talking about a “cage” when in essence they mean “cache”. And I have been defending talking about “branch prediction” in my courses on computer organization despite the fact that students have argued that such “esoteric” topics are way too low-level and that no one any longer is interested in such “historic” hardware stuff. I have also been defending the IAIK-way of teaching “operating systems”, all too often against other teachers at the university complaining about the huge attention a typical student needs to come up with in order to master this course.

But with the recent news about “Meltdown” and “Spectre”, all of these efforts paid off manifold: It should be obvious to each and every of our students that diving deep into the guts of our commodity gadgets like mobile phones, PCs, servers, cloud services, and any other computing device gets you all the “juice” it needs for becoming a major player in the stadium shows of IT.

I congratulate my colleagues Michael Schwarz, Daniel Gruss, Stefan Mangard, and Moritz Lipp (from left to right on the photo above) for their professionalism of detecting, fixing, and communicating results of their work.

In case you have missed all the recent news about Meltdown and Spectre, just google. The news are currently full. This is my favorite:

A note for the younger ones of you: Check out “LosFuzzys” (; it might be your place to start a career in becoming great in IT.

Photo (c) Lunghammer