This one is a non-technical post. I decided to write this because all related information is spread around various forums and often outdated (consulate moved, other procedures). I personally like to be as prepared as possible, so having this online might benefit some people that were in a similar situation as I was and save them some searching. I won’t go into detail on the whole visa process since that’s something best left up to the lawyers (according to lawyers). This post describes things that I dealt with on my own after the initial application was already done.
While filling out a DS-2019 is necessary, it’s all pretty selfexplanatory. The first thing that I’d consider to be a bit out of the ordinary was paying the visa fee using the Roskos Meier Visasysytem. I don’t know how an insurance agency from Berlin got into the job of taking payments for all American consulates, especially considering that the 10$ interview application fee can be paid using a credit card, but I guess that’s a bit off-topic. One important thing to pay attention to is, that setting up an appointment on the internet will allow you to sign up for one about a week from the day you apply. This was at least the case for me in the ‘off season’ (read: H1B applicants are mostly processed by now). You WILL need to show the roskos meier printout when you’re arriving at the consulate. Be sure to check for any bank holidays and weekends between now and your chosen appointment. For me, the confirmation took 4 business days to arrive (+ 2 weekend days and 1 bank holiday). The email arrived at 08:23 in the morning, so it might be an automated system.
At the appointment
I decided to take the car because the VVS/SSB and Deutsche Bahn recently had all sorts
of problems bringing people to where they need to go on time.
As you can see on google street view,
there is plenty of free street parking available right next to the consulate.
I had an early-ish (9.15) appointment and was one of a handful of cars. The employees
seem to have their own parking spots, so I think the street spots won’t be all that
crowded thoughtout the day.
There is also a UBahn (U5) stop right down the street called “Gießener Straße” which will take you directly to the Hauptbahnhof (15-20 minutes).
Date and time
Seeing as I went past 3 major cities on my way to Frankfurt, I decided to add a little time buffer for slow traffic along the way. There was pretty much no traffic at all, so I arrived around 8.30. When asking the security guard upfront, he said that I can probably just stand in line, as long as I have SOME form or appointment, they’ll let me in. So if there isn’t too much of a line, you might as well try.
The road to rome
To end up in the final room that does the processing you will:
- Wait in line in front of the entrance. They have those little heat radiators, so even in a bit of a colder weather it’s pretty pleasant. There are lines for citizens and non-citizens. At the end of the line, you’ll get assigned a number.
- Once you have the number, you move one queue to the right and put everything you have in your pockets (and your belt) in a clear plastic bag that you’ll be handed by the security guard.
- Once they let you into the building, you’ll get directed through an airport-style metal detector.
- After passing though the detector, you’ll have to walk through the courtyard into the next building (with your belongings still in the bag).
- In the beginning of the next building, there’s a little entrace hall with a place to put the plastic bag after you’ve emptied it.
- After that entrance hall, you’ll walk up to the large room where the bureaucratic magic happens. It’s a pretty generic system where you basically stand in a few more lines walking up to the people doing the processing.
In case of a longer waiting period, there are snack machines (German drinks, German candy) and a bathroom available. They put a “dyson airblade” in the bathroom, so I finally understood where all those visa fees ended up at ;)
The “interview questions”
After giving them your passport and fingerprints at the first booth and having
them reconfirmed at the second one, you will be at the final step of your journey.
I didn’t need to give them my print outs of the passport picture. They said that
if the DS-2019 looks fine, they will just take the digital one.
After waiting for my number (the one you got at the very first step) to show up, I was at the last step of the process, the interview stage.
As far as the interview questions go, the were pretty generic in my case. I assume just to make sure I actually know who I am and what I’m doing. From what I recall, they were something along these lines:
- Is X the company you work for?
- What do you do there? (“I’m a software engineer” was detailed enough.)
- How long have you been working for X?
- What does your company do?
- For how long do you plan to stay?
- Which state are they in?
Seeing as both the lady behind the glass and the company I work for were from Massachusetts, I had a bit of smalltalk about how cold winters are in Boston (always a favorite) and how little sun we get around Germany’s latitude. It was all very pleasant and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. After you (hopefully) get the magic “Your visa is approved”, you can exit the building the way you came in.
Getting the visa in your passport means that they’ll take a full page of your little passport book and glue in a colorful piece of paper with your picture on it. It basically says how long the visa is valid for (5 years in my case) and adds additional notes (“must present approved I-797 or I-129S at POE”). You don’t have to be at home for DHL express, they will just put it in your mailbox.
That was pretty much it, hope I could help whoever was directed here by a google search :)
Long time no blog!
I’ve had this script sitting around for a while now and never really quite know where to post it.
It isn’t really worth turning into a Gem and while I just posted it on Github, posting it here will probably give people a few more google results. Since it’s the internet, I’m sure there are some edge cases where this doesn’t work or where it returns incorrect data. It’s also very fragile when it comes to error handling with the downloads, so don’t use it to power your nuclear power plant ;)
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I love the idea of the Quantified Self movement. I love collecting data, trying to see connections and monitoring my self improvement process. I’ve been collecting GPX traces while running for quite a while, so it isn’t all that unexpected that the fitbit was a gadget that was right up my alley. It allows you to record the amount of steps you take like every other pedometer, but thanks to a few more sensors, it also can tell you how many floors you’ve climbed, how many kilometers ou traveled and even how often you worke up while sleeping.
It syncs wirelessly, the battery lasts a long time and it is small enough that it isn’t an annoyance to carry arround all day.
The only downside is the webservice itself. It’s not that I dislike their site itself, quite to the contrary. The annoying part is that I’d have to subscribe to their premium plan to get a hold of my raw data. I’m not actually looking to use any of the other premium features, so just paying 50$/yr because they hold my data hostage was kind of a pain.
The nice part however is, that they provide an API that allows you to programmatically grab at least an overview of activity and sleep stats. It misses the actual timeframes (“you walked 1000 steps between 3 and 3,15”, “you woke up at 3, 3:45 and 5”) but it provides you with an ok summary (steps per day, fell asleep at time x, …).
I was a bit afraid that I’d have to screen scrape their site to get to my data, but not only didn’t I have to do that, I also didn’t have to deal with the oauth stuff myself either.
Zachery Moneypenny (“whazzmaster”) had already created a client library for their API and provided a bit of sample code.
Using that library I was able to whip up a quick incremental backup script that saves the activities and sleep data as something machine readable.
This is an example of what the activity data looks like:
$ cat 2012_09_10_activities.yaml --- activities:  goals: activeScore: 1000 caloriesOut: 3092 distance: 8.05 floors: 10 steps: 10000 summary: activeScore: 762 activityCalories: 1362 caloriesOut: 2885 distances: - activity: total distance: 6.43 - activity: tracker distance: 6.43 - activity: loggedActivities distance: 0 - activity: veryActive distance: 2.25 - activity: moderatelyActive distance: 3.36 - activity: lightlyActive distance: 0.81 - activity: sedentaryActive distance: 0 elevation: 9.14 fairlyActiveMinutes: 102 floors: 3 lightlyActiveMinutes: 139 marginalCalories: 913 sedentaryMinutes: 651 steps: 8114 veryActiveMinutes: 33
And the sleep data:
$ cat 2012_09_10_sleep.yaml --- sleep: - awakeningsCount: 8 duration: 30900000 efficiency: 97 isMainSleep: true logId: 16236289 minutesAfterWakeup: 1 minutesAsleep: 471 minutesAwake: 16 minutesToFallAsleep: 27 startTime: '2012-09-10T00:56:00.000' timeInBed: 515 summary: totalMinutesAsleep: 471 totalSleepRecords: 1 totalTimeInBed: 515
You can find the script in my github repo. It’s not properly packaged and the Readme could use some polish, but this is more of a ‘scratching my own itch’ thingy that I thought might just save somebody 15 minutes.
I ran into a strange ‘bug’ that was a little bit more annoying to debug.
Apparently OpenSSL 1.x that is getting installed by brew doesn’t seem to be 100% compatible with Ruby, at least when you install it using RVM.
I ran into a reproducible problem when trying to connect to a salesforce sandbox account. This could be distilled down to this snipped:
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Which resulted in this sad exception after 30 seconds or so:
Errno::ECONNRESET: Connection reset by peer - SSL_connect from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/net/http.rb:799:in `connect' from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/net/http.rb:799:in `block in connect' from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/timeout.rb:54:in `timeout' from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/timeout.rb:99:in `timeout' from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/net/http.rb:799:in `connect' from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/net/http.rb:755:in `do_start' from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/net/http.rb:744:in `start' from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/net/http.rb:1284:in `request' from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/net/http.rb:1307:in `send_entity' from /Users/mseeger/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p125/lib/ruby/1.9.1/net/http.rb:1096:in `post'
It turns out that RVM can also install openssl, and it decides to go for version 0.9.8:
$ rvm pkg install openssl Fetching openssl-0.9.8t.tar.gz to /Users/mseeger/.rvm/archives % Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed 100 3690k 100 3690k 0 0 394k 0 0:00:09 0:00:09 --:--:-- 456k Extracting openssl-0.9.8t.tar.gz to /Users/mseeger/.rvm/src Configuring openssl in /Users/mseeger/.rvm/src/openssl-0.9.8t. Compiling openssl in /Users/mseeger/.rvm/src/openssl-0.9.8t. Installing openssl to /Users/mseeger/.rvm/usr $
After that I just reinstalled Ruby and pointed it at the openssl version just to make extra sure:
rvm reinstall 1.9.3-p194 --with-openssl-dir=~/.rvm/usr
After that, the snipped ends up with a 404 as expected.
I’ve recently been dabbling with setting up a little homeserver. It runs XBMC, afpd (for TimeMachine) and a good amount of other little scripts and apps that mike my life more automated.
One of the things I would like to have is the ability to access US only services like Hulu from within XBMC.
From the XBMC side, that isn’t all that hard of a task. There are plugins for hulu (video) and the online portfolio of various cable stations (video) available from bluecop’s repository. They certainly aren’t giving the user an experience that is up to par with something like the interface of an Apple TV, but it usually works without too much of a hassle.
One of the problems when setting up this combination is the geo-locked nature of hulu and the other providers. When visiting the Hulu website from my usual German IP address, I am greeted with the usual “NO VIDEO FOR YOU!” message:
To get arround this, I’ve used VPNs or specialized services in the past. While both of them work pretty decently, I’d rather not force ALL of my traffic over the VPN or pay for a service that I can’t use for much more than Hulu.
One solution would be to go down the VPN route and configure network access based on the user or group using iptables’s owner-match extension, but I honestly don’t like working with iptables and the extension isn’t necessarily available on all systems.
Thanks to @makefoo, I looked a bit more into available “socksification” tools. These tools basically hook TCP/IP kernel methods and redirect them over a SOCKS proxy on a per application level using LD_PRELOAD as far as I understood. This means that you can use them on a per-application level and the only thing you need to point them at is a SOCKS proxy. A SOCKS proxy like the one that SSH is able to provide with the -D flag. So the only real setup I have to do is establishing an SSH connection before I launch the app using something like:
ssh -ND 8765 -i /path/to/certificate [email protected]
Given that you set up a ‘user’ account on your server (.bin/false or /bin/nologin are your friends) and have public key authentication enabled, this will open a local socks proxy on port 8765 and is able to dynamically forward all requests ports through that connection. There are several tools that can do the actual redirection of the network requests. I personally have had good luck with ProxyChains. Other alternatives are TSocks or Dante.
Another big advantage is that this doesn’t need anything running on the remote server besides SSH. I suggest looking at current LowEndBox offers for a cheap VPS. I currently use the “Atlanta OpenVZ VPS – OVZ128” from Quickpacket which comes down to 15 USD a year. I had to ask them for another IP once because the first one wasn’t for some reason detected as being from the US, but besides that it worked great.
If you’re looking for solutions to proxy your Bittorrent traffic, I suggest using Deluge Torrent which supports SOCKS without the need for forced socksification. And at least for Germany, Oderland is a nice swedish VPS provider that has a VPS starting at 2-3 Euros/month.
Thanks to this, I can now do all of my backups straight over my regular connetion and specific programs will use the SSH encryted connection. With my AMD E-450 CPU, I can push 100 mbit/s transfer speed to the internet without a problem.
- a podcasting client
- an app to record GPS files while running
- an app for turn-by-turn navigation
The podcasting client was easy, I’ve already used instacast on my iPad, it syncs with iCloud and works perfectly for what I need.
This post deals with the second app, the running app. When I was on Android, I usually used runkeeper. It worked fine and the only downside was that I had to go to the website to get the GPX file (and they tried to hide it pretty well). On iOS, the app seemed a bit… jumpy when it comes to filtering the GPS signal:
This wasn’t really what I was looking for.
I also tried a few other ones, but most of them where targeted towards getting you on some website and wanting you to buy some sort of premium subscription.
I looked for a paid app that isn’t free but offers good value, this is where I noticed Runmeter:
The company that develops it has a nice comparison online. While this has to be taken with a grain of salt, I think they did an ok job.
Things I like:
- It has support for adding runs to the calendar after you’re done. It’s kinda neat to see your calendar and know what you’ve done next to all the other stuff.
- It is able to attach a gpx to an email and export it that way. It is also able to send customized reports with direct links. I’ll probably use this to automate the import into my custom tailored runalog (that is in dire need of a bit of code polish):
- It is able to customize the voice feedback. You can pretty much combine whatever information you want to hear.
- It doesn’t force me to go to any website. The only thing you have to sign up for is sending automated emails after every run. You can also use the iPhone to send those, but iOS limits apps to just popping up a prefilled “compose” window and not actually sending them. I don’t have a problem with using the developers webservice.
- It has a whole lot of social yadda yadda integrated. I don’t use it, but I like the fact that I could.
So far I am happy with the app, it’s actively being developed and the price of 4.99$ is ok for something that I use every day.
—> App store link
Here are the slides of a NoSQL presentation I did as a “lunch and learn” at acquia.
The presentation introduces the different categories of NoSQL data-stores and discusses some of their possible use-cases.
The slides are a bit on the text heavy side and really don’t have a good design. I think I will stop trying to use google docs for that kind of stuff:
A PDF copy of the slides is available here.
Collected enough good stuff again :)
When trying to run a test-unit test with the included XML testrunner on 1.8.7, I ended up with a NameError about a missing “TestResultFailureSupport”:
To solve this, you have to make sure that the file actually loads the test-unit 2.x GEM as opposed to using the included 1.x version from stdlib. You can do this by simply adding this line to your ruby file: