A Book Per Month – Why I Cancelled Netflix To Have More Time For Reading

Not that long ago, I was inspired to commit to a move, that saw me cancelling my Netflix account. In fact, I realised that I was spending way too little time reading and also wasting too much time with Netflix.

I was wondering what actual value Netflix was giving me, and I realised, that only rarely did I watch things that I thought are truly great, this included Stranger Things; But most of the things I was watching to give myself some relaxation time, actually did, on closer analysis, bring less value to me as reading a good book does. Sure, with the very low cost of a Netflix subscription this didn’t have to be ein either/or scenario, but I decided it was time to give this a try and not have a Netflix subscription, until something truly inspiring and/or artistically amazing comes out that would actually make me regret not watching it. And with a full cancellation this would also take away the temptation.

So, I devised another plan instead: I will purchase one book each month, and set myself the goal to read it until the next book will arrive. Should I finish faster, I will order an intermediary book to read.

There is no real pattern by which I will choose the books, it will mostly be driven by whatever I feel like when it is time for the next one.

The First One

The book for February just arrived today, Silence: In the Age of Noise by Norwegian Author Erling Kagge. It came to my attention by means of an extract that was printed in last weekend’s FT Weekend, in the ‘Life and Arts’ section, and I felt it would be a very interesting book to read, blending reflection with philosophy in an interesting way, at least in my very first contact with it. So, this is the one I ordered first, purely from a feeling and a short extract, yet I actually was more hyped about the little parcel taking it to my doorstep than I was for a new episode of Game of Thrones this summer… and this leads me to believe, I made the right decision.

 

A Happy Christmas To All Friends and Followers!

I want to wish all my friends and followers a very happy Christmas! I hope you are having a great time with those people important to you and celebrate everything there is to celebrate these days.

I also want to take the opputurnity to thank all my friends, followers, supporters and business contacts for your continued support and for being there when I needed you.

As no year is like another, 2017 also was a very unique, special year. I started a journey to sail for new shores, moving to a new (and old) country, meeting many great new people, started a new business and started my way on many fresh journeys.

As Christmas is the time when we take in the quiet and calm and cool down after the storms of the passing year, this is my thank you message to all those that were there for me when I needed you the most and also extend my hand to all of you for me to return the favour.

Having started a new company, this is one of those special years in my life during which there are great opportunities to be taken and great losses that have to be endured, but thanks to all of you, who will know who they are when reading these lines, I feel I am in a better position than ever before.

2017 was a year in which I found myself re-examining many things, but I also came to the conclusion that the sport of cycling is a more essential part of me than I previously thought, which is why I also want to give my extended thank you to both the GS Avanti Club of South London who were a great help to return to the sport and the RSV90 Goldenstedt with whom I once again spend many great hours in training and racing. But I also want to thank the staff at Swift Cycles in London who gave me an amazing experience buying my Cervelo R2 which brought more joy upon me than I could imagine was possible.

Now 2018 lays ahead, with many great challenges and crossroads to come, new decisions to make, success and loss which will be unavoidable. But I am looking forward with a happy heart, believing the future is brighter than the past, not at last thanks to all of my friends, followers, supporters and other people that have enriched my life in 2017 and the 24 years before.

Happy Christmas

Your J M Meissner

What Am I Doing Now?

What am I doing now? This is a question I am asked quite a lot at the moment, so I thought I’d take the time to answer it.

While some people may know bits and pieces, I am now summarising it in its entirety:

I have just started a new company called “StartSwitch” where I am working both as the CEO, but also as a Cloud Architect. To best explain my role, I should first introduce the company: StartSwitch helps enterprises to embrace Open Source cloud technologies such as OpenStack, CEPH and Kubernetes by planning, deploying and maintaining private cloud infrastructure.

In practice, this could mean that we are being approached by a typical German Mittelstand company producing, for example, agricultural machinery. They found a compelling case to innovate by digitising processes their customers are following, for example gathering specific intelligence of the work as it is carried out and offering additional value to their customer by automating processes and giving unique insights, cost savings and more.

This company may have a well sized IT department and a small development team they took on recently, but they don’t have experience with operating a service. StartSwitch then helps them to identify the needs of their developers for the infrastructure, plans a private cloud deployment and implements the pilot together with their teams. The teams are then trained on the environment to maximise its effectiveness and learn how to scale it as requirements change.

Like this, they can utilise experience they do not have in house for a limited time and not just train their staff, but also finish with a completed project in the same amount of time otherwise solely devoted to figuring out and staff training.

Compared to using traditional IT workflows, they can now adopt a DevOps strategy which helps them react faster and with more flexibility to customer requirements and outpace competition while still maintaining control of all data and interlectual property, safeguarding it from competitors and criminals behind their own firewalls and protected by their trusted security and operations teams.

But why?

The reasons I decided to specifically enter this industry are many fold: First of all, I really enjoy working with the technologies at the core of my new business. Further more, I felt there was a need for a partner that companies undergoing a digital transformation can lean on and take over my experience in the area. Overall, I am looking to help customers optimise resource utilisation, both time and resources such as electricity and hardware, but also maintain competitiveness over much larger global competitors and, not least, safeguard the information by enabling full transparency and data ownership through Open Source solutions.

On the front of resource utilisation, one should add that data centres are responsible for some 10 per cent of global electricity consumption, and due to IoT and the Digital Transformation, this is projected to rise further. My intention is to help companies reduce their share as much as possible and heavily profiting from it in many other areas by making better use of their existing assets and planning new projects so their also also less resource intensive.

So, what is the plan moving forward?

Next up, I am planning to grow the company as quickly as I can, so I can bring these services to more and more companies, and ideally, once the company is big enough, I want to be able to look at another problem in this world and tackle it as best I can, which is always my plan with any company I start. There are still a lot of things I want to do and a lot of problems I want to solve during my  lifetime, this is just one way to move further down this list.

To summarise, StartSwitch allows me to bring some of my favourite subjects, technology, privacy, information security, the Digital Transformation and climate change mitigation together and enabling others to embrace all these areas at the same time.

The Future of Cars Is Electric

 

img_0598-head

I have long been a firm believer in the statement entitling this post. I carry a deep love for the Tesla Model S and can’t really imagine owing any other car.

I remember the first time I took a seat behind the wheel of a Model S and felt right at home. It had a flair to it that no one can currently match.

And for now it remains the most attractive automotive offering available. The current 90D has a range beyond 500km on a single charge, can be easily recharged at Tesla’s Supercharger network and it still catches me out how well thought through it is.

Now Porsche is hiring 1000 people to work on its Model S competitor, the Mission-E’s production version. I also have to admit being a little bit of a Porsche fan, though the chance of me ever buying one of their cars with an internal combustion engine are slim.

However, would I buy their Mission-E or its younger production sibling once available? Looking at the Porsche micro site  about the Mission-E the specs look very tempting. Over 600hp and over 500km range match the Tesla.

It uses many of Tesla’s genius solutions such as the low mounted battery pack in the floor hat helps delivering perfect driving dynamics. But it also claims a few design goals which fix some of the Model S’ flaws, such as the ability to handle continuous acceleration and deceleration cycles. The Tesla reduces performance at some stage to protect from overheating (though that doesn’t really happen in normal driving, we are talking 0km/h to 200 to 50 to 200 and so on).

I think the Model S also looks a little better from the front, but prefer the Mission-E’s rear. Looks are always a personal taste issue, and we have to wait for the final car which more likely than not will have a toned down design.

But Porsches efforts prove that I am right and EVs are taking over.

In the 2020s we will have mainstream electric cars as well as improved high end models from Tesla and new ones from Apple, Porsche, Audi and probably a few more. We will see how Telsa will continue to innovate and lead the EV industry. Porsche might catch up or follow closely. It is an exciting time, finally ridding of Oil, but also opening new challenges. While affordable electric car models are coming, the all new challenge is called fast renewable expansion.

Why The “Energiewende” Is Based On Facts And Not Romance

This post should be understood as my answer to yesterday’s article in German “Manager Magazin” entitled  Please Don’t Disturb Us With Facts.

Winds of Energy

Recently I saw many good articles coming from Manager Magazine, but the one mentioned here seemed odd from the very beginning. I began being a bit suspicious and decided researching some facts as well as finding out about the author himself.

The Author, Marc Oliver Bettzüge, is an Economics Professor in Cologne and member of the EWI. As such I expected him to have a more in-depth understanding of our industry.

However, a quick Google Search later, I learned that the EWI of the University of Cologne is sponsored by the NGO “Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Energiewirtschaftlichen Instituts an der Universität zu Köln e. V” which intern is sponsored by E.ON and RWE. Further, they worked in the past for the Initiative Neue Soziale Marktwirtschaft (Initiative New Social Market Economy), a German neo-liberal lobby group. This should help to understand his position and his reasoning that lead to the clear bias in his article.

Bettzüge  opens by joking about Germans having a new purpose in the world, and although it is meant as a joke, he is probably right. During my active time at the European Youth Parliament (2011-2014) I noticed that more and more we Germans are known as a country caring about the environment, climate change, waste recycling and renewables. But this development is, in my opinion a welcoming one. It gives the German Renewable Energy industry a strong sense of seriousness and credibility. It shows that we care.

He goes on to argue the Energiewende is a rigid process that Germans follow blindly. His only facts supporting this claim: Two quotes, one from Baden Würtemberg’s Minister President, Winfried Kretschmann (Green Party) (“The Energiewende is national consensus”), but instead of a full quote he half quotes using a subjunctive to ensure the audience notices his doubt and another quote from former Energy and Environment Minister, Peter Altmaier (CDU) (“Everyone has to do their part in the Energiewende”).

Fact is that Kretschmann was elected in the aftermath of the Fukushima Disaster, combined with the protests against the Stuttgart S21 rail station plans.

The events in Fukushima also defacto triggered the general opinion in Germany to switch toward an anti nuclear standpoint which now, undoubtedly, is the majority view, and for a good reason.

However, it is not true that many people follow the new direction blindly. First of all, the direction is not new, but we just returned to this path in 2009, although reducing the speed vs 2004. Also, the number of people constantly questioning this path, trying to adjust it and improve it is not so small that one could ignore it: For example, the whole reason YourEnergy exists to drive and influence the global switch to Renewable Energy by the means of developing new technologies such as energy storage, turbine management software, facilitating investment in the industry and lowering the hurdles to accessing and deploying these technologies.

In the next paragraph Bettzüge directly compares renewables  to fossil fuel and nuclear, stating that the first are incentivised and the other phased out. While this is true, he is missing half of the story: A 2009 study quoted the total subsidies the German taxpayer paid to the nuclear Industrie since 1954 to be over 203.7 Billion Euros. Considering the fact, that nuclear energy is not required to have liability Insurence in Germany, we can add up two  820 Billion Euro in indirect subsidies that also influence their market position.

Further, the coal industry has been subsidised with 352 Billion Euros between 1950 and 2008.

Therefore, arguing that subsidies are an unfair and unreasonable advantage for renewable energy is a false claim. He also fails to mention that the phase out of coal is a climate political necessity to reach the 2 degrees kelvin goal of maximum global average temperature rise and to phase out nuclear is the economically sensible choice.

The fact that Germany only accounts for 1/40th of the global energy economy is no excuse not to act in our best ability. Also, you might notice this is actually a quite large chunk compared to other states. Electricity production is also on of the major sources for pollution, leading me to conclude that this is a good way to start.

When the Energiewende is successful, we have a brilliant basis for a larger scale role out of Tesla Model S style EVs that will make more sense than ever.

Currently Renewables make up 56% of the new capacity added to the world’s power sector. REN21 reported renewables to now account for 26.4% of the world’s generating capacity and 22.1% of the world’s supplies at the end of 2014 while Mr Bettzüge claims fossil fuels and nuclear contribute over 90%, but fails to mention a source. I’d like the add one more fact: According to the Umwelt-Bundesamt (Federal Agency for Environment) the current contribution of renewable energy to the total electricity production in Germany is 27,8%. The “over 90%” mentioned in Bettzüge’s article are not a number that is backed up by any reliable data source we use in the renewable energy industry.

The Author writes that current policy is based on a “future prediction” that he sees in competition to strategic thinking. As every manager will tell you, strategy includes goal setting, therefore I don’t see them in competition. If a 20% CO2 reduction by  2020 EU wide is the goal, we need to break it down into achievable bites and find ways to accomplish them, hence, renewable energy.

I don’t deny that the decision to opt out of the usage of nuclear power is mostly lead by a political one, but for the economic reasons mentioned above it is the right one, especially taking the health and risk factors into further consideration.

Mr Bettzüge asks what the benefits are for all the political decisions made in regards to energy policy in Germany, but I think they are clear: lower cost inflicted by climate change, lower cost inflicted by storage, transport and security of nuclear waste products, reduced long term cost by accelerating technological development and proving the capability of the German renewable energy sector. This immensely strengthens Senvion, Nordex, Enercon, Simens and others.

One of my most used arguments in favor is an actual net job gain. We create more jobs than we destroy and save money along the way. Modern Wind Farms produce cheaper electricity than nuclear power plants or gas fire plants, even when ignoring all subsidies paid directly through our tax bill. You may ask why we still need subsidies? Ignoring that most of them are used to pay for stand by power plants that can be made redundant in the near future thanks to storage and smart grids, the rest is a useful incentive to support broader deployment and development of renewable technologies.

The last claim made by Mr Bettzüge is also the one that feels the most twisted to me:

He first mentions a redistribution, but goes on to complain that the aging business model of many large scale utilities is falling apart as many more private people and small to medium companies revolutionary a market to the better. He criticises a state led surge for innovation, but does fail to mention the slow reactions and the low engagement the current giants in the market proof.

To conclude, I believe this article is blindly ignoring the important facts and then describes us, in the renewables industry, as dreamers while we are busy taking over global electricity supply and, in a second step, global energy.

While Mr Bettzüge calls for our industry to wake up and face reality, he seems to be caught in a day dream, financed by those who seem to be too slow to adapt to our success and the necessary market shake up. He condemns state intervention  as much as he condemns an accelerating competition. He asks questions, but still owes us proven, factual answers.

I, for one, am certain that the Energiewende in Deutschland is anything but a romance affair that ignores the facts. It rather is a new reality that, if anything, should come even faster and with more force to clean out the old dust that is still on the shelves of the few large monopolists.

(Jannik Malte Meissner is the CEO and Co-Founder of Renewable Energy Startup YourEnergy that helps companies and communities to build their own generation capacity, invests in renewable energy infrastructure and researches in electricity storage and wind energy)

Nikon D750

Nikon D750 Ordered

After a long while of trying to decide on the perfect camera for my needs, I now ended up ordering a Nikon D750.

Nikon D750

In this post I am going to explain some of my reasoning.

First of all, I want to mention the cameras that I considered: These were the Sony A7S, Sony A99, A77 II, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D7100 / D7200 and the D750.

Then the long process of selection started: initially I loved the idea of the 7D Mark II. Fast autofocus and even faster bursts (10fps)  with a large buffer sounded like my kind of thing. As a wildlife hobbyist I don’t need a 1D X or Nikon D4S but coming nice to it is nice indeed.

Seeing the first raw images of the 7D II made me change my mind though. The files had not the colour I hoped they had and with rising ISOs the image gets rather soft. Furthermore, dynamic range is just not great at all. And when the video quality revealed to be very soft and not as easy to sharpen as the 5D Mark III the 7D was out.

In terms of video though, there was nothing that could beat the Sony A7S. Low light is amazing, sharpness is amazing, and even the video codec makes me smile. This could be the ideal camera, if not for the photo quality. While sufficient, 12MP is not an ideal resolution today and speed and autofocus are useless for wildlife. The amount of autofocus lenses, while irrelevant for video, is not sufficient to make this my main tool for both photo and video.

The Sony Alpha A99 is simply outdated and the A77 II has that horrible 2x (compared to full frame) crop in video mode, using only a M4/3 size portion of the sensor instead of the full APS-C sensor.

This leaves still the 5D Mark III on the table as well as anything Nikon makes.

When comparing the 5D and the D750 side by side it becomes obvious which way to go for my need: out of camera video of the Nikon is better, the raw files have much higher dynamic range, it is faster, has, in my opinion, better autofocus and the low light capabilities also outshine the Canon.

The D7200 is not available until April (I need the camera for early April latest) and the D7100’s sensor is just not as good. Further, the grip on the D750 is much more comfortable than both of the crop Nikons.

As the price difference to the D610 is small enough, I decided that the D750, for me, lays in the sweet spot of price and features.

D750 back

As I was shooting Sony previously and don’t have any Nikon lenses I ordered a 50mm f/1.8 and a 28mm f/2.8 with it. I still have a need for a tele-lens, but it is not fully decided yet which one I would use. The options are Tamron 70-200 f/2.8, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tokina 70-200 f/4, Nikon 70-200 f/2, Nikon AF-S 80-200 f/2.8 and Nikon 300 f/4 D, or something else if it makes sense and fits the budget. As you see, it is not even narrowed down yet.

Having tried the D750 before as well as having read too many reviews, I am comfortable so far that it is the ideal camera. FX format quality and low light sensitivity, together with amazing autofocus should make it very fun indeed.

AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

As soon as I have it in my hands, I will let you know with a first preview and sample shots and I will post a full review after I had it for a little.

 

(image copyright for product shots: Nikon Europe BV)

My Photos

Below is a collection of some of my favorite shots. Enjoy!

 

Red Deers in Richmond Park

Below you can see a number of pictures I took on a recent visit to Richmond Park.

I took my Sony A200 with me, including an 18-70mm Zoom lens. The lens was rather versatile for Landscapes, although the optical quality is not satisfying enough anymore, but for the wildlife shots it is a challenge as you need to get rather close to actually fill the frame.

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