Maartens website

Why hello! Thanks for stopping by! As I mentioned on my homepage, My name is Maarten. I'm a 24 years old student, and I dabble in a lot of things that I enjoy doing. Some of these things I put on display here, my website, for the world to see!
On this page, I talk a bit about myself, my daily routine, what I do, ... It's not all-encompassing, and I've narrowed it down quite a bit to the most important things. I plan on sharing more through my upcoming blog, but until that's done, I hope this is enough to keep you satisfied.

Interests

Hacking

It's mostly hacking/coding. It's kind of my jam. I've been working and playing with computers since I was a toddler, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that that became a big hobby form me. I'm doing a lot of other things as well, but they're either not really well enough developed to talk about, or too minor to mention. Of course, I'm not stagnant, so I'll be updating this as soon as it's relevant.

music

I don't like rap and pop music. I get annoyed by hearing most of it, so I try to avoid it. Especially recent popular songs can irritate me to no end, almost without exception. Luckily I don't get that much joy out of listening music anyway, so I don't feel like I miss out a lot.
I do like popular numbers from the eighties, some Eurodance style numbers, and ambient music. I don't have favourite numbers or anything. I just like them.

I'm blessed with a set of the best friends one can imagine. They make life just so amazing, and I hope I can also do that for them. I try to open myself up to others as much as possible (or at least, as much as I feel comfortable with), hoping that I can share my happiness with them as well. All in pursuit of making our world a better place for everyone!

Food

I'm an omnivore, and eat everything that I like to eat. I like a variety of different things, but the things I like most are nicely prepared beef, yummy vegetables, and fish. I heavily dislike pureed food, beans and peas, and desserts that are not simple. I'll seldom turn down things like hamburgers, pizzas, ...
Spaghettis (and other pastas) are extremely satisfying for me to eat, because practically everyone knows how to make it, but almost every time I try someone's version, it's a different taste. I love how many varieties of all the pastas exist!
This is quite the opposite with fries: Only Belgians seem to know how fries are served properly. I've seen (and sadly, tasted) the ways fries are prepared abroad, and it's often an insult against our national pride, so much so that I avoid eating them outside of Belgium.
I enjoy Belgian fries a lot, but I am picky about them. I consider my portion "great" if fresh potatoes are used, they're medium sized, and well baked, topped off with a generous amount of (real) mayonnaise. Eating them with a frikandel makes me feel like a true Belgian.
I might eat vegetarian when an attractive option is available. That is: It has to be tasty, not expensive, and shouldn't make me miss meat. If those conditions are met, I'll probably take a vegetarian dish, but not because I want to be a vegetarian. I believe this helps to reduce my carbon footprint. I started doing this when I went to Ghent University, where there's often a tasty vegetarian dish available.

Drugs

I have banned recreational use of all drugs out of my life for as long as I can remember. This includes nicotine products and alcoholic beverages.
I do this for multiple reasons:

That being said, I do see why people enjoy them, and I've read about how cannabis is sometimes used for medical purposes (which I would do as well should I need it, since that's not recreational), so I don't oppose to others using them, nor do I refrain from buying them if I know they will be consumed in moderation. I do oppose to usage that inflicts harm to others, or in general, forces other people to use it as well in a passive way.

Studies

I hold an undergraduate Informatics degree from Hasselt University. (coloquially named UHasselt). However, nowadays I'm rarely there, since I'm now a graduate student of (Scientific Engineering) Informatics at Ghent University. I spent most of my time in a rented space in Ghent with my friend Jonathan.
When I don't have any lessons to attend, I'm close to the Faculty of Psychology & Pedagogy. For my courses I often travel to the Ardoyen campus in Zwijnaarde.

Sports

Every week, I use my bicycle to commute between Ghent and the technology campus of Ghent University, so I cycle approximately 50km per week.

When I'm not in Ghent, I'm often home, most probably extremely busy with hugging my 3 dogs. Apart from that (and homework), my evenings are a mix of several things, like socializing, coding, writing, hacking my laptop, you get the idea. Also, when I feel like dabbling in something, I'll make some time for it.

Weekends are often trying to keep up with what university threw at me the last week. This website is my spot on the internet, so this is basically where I hang out. Sometimes you might run into me while I'm "redecorating" the place, or doing spring cleaning in my code repository. Anyway, if you want to sit down, you can always do so, I love having people around! 😃

I regularly add new texts to my website, or do general maitenance. I try to extract time where I can, but maintaining a website (and doing it well), is not always the most easy job. Different screen sizes, JS (in)compatibility, enforcing encryption, translating my website (which I do myself), ... Nevertheless, if I find a free spot somewhere, I might very well be updating my website. It's satisfying work to see my own place grow under my fingertips, albeit slower than I want it to.
Sometimes, it might seem I've not been doing anything on my website for a while. This might indicate real-life obligations, but might also be invisible changes to the source code, which are just as important as anything else I do around here.

Politics

I keep myself informed about political subjects that interest me. A list of some subjects I follow with hightened attention: I also hold opinions on many issues, which I believe to be rational (but who doesn't, right?), but I don't feel attached to a political orientation, nor do I change my viewpoint to better align with one. I will say that in general I tend to lean towards ideas that ecological parties and pirate parties often espouse. But again, my opinions might differ drastically. Do ask me if you would like to know more, I'm all for explaining.

Despite my interest in politics, I try not to bring this up into daily communication when it's not necessary. The reason is threefold:

How I do my computing

It's what I do most, so for those interested, I figured I'd talk about how I do the things with computers =3

I have a reliable computer that I built myself, and a companion laptop through Hasselt University. Both run Arch, the best GNU/Linux distro out there. I do almost all my stuff in GNU Emacs, like programming, maintaining my diary, working, system maitenance, and sometimes even browsing. I sometimes also use NeoVim. >80% of my work is text related, and terminals are just better at that than a fully fledged desktop environment.
Languages I prefer are C, Python, and (my current favorite) Clojure. I'm trying to pick up Haskell, which goes as well as you'd expect from a language like that.
I run Lineage OS 14.1 on my phone (In laymen terms: It's basically a cool and slim Android/Linux 7 with less Google interference).
Code repositories are always Git repos, no exceptions. Depending on the project size, I use a simple dependency listing, or a recognized project manager like Leiningen or Cargo.

My website

My web server runs on Nginx, and the website itself is built using Django, a Python web framework that's extremely well written.

I try to make my website available in multiple languages. I translate manually into Dutch, French and English. For other languages, I'm supported by Apertium since November 2020, which is a free software machine translator. I refuse to use any SaaSS by Google, which means I won't use Google Translate. Apertium is not as good in quality, but that's no problem for me: I only use it to do the "bulk translations", which are very tedious and can take up weeks of my time, time that I simply don't have. After the translations are made, I go over them manually to fix all the remaining mistakes, and add the missing details and contextual nuances (if necessary) that machine translators have a lot of trouble with.

I use Esperanto for hyperlinks, because I want my web pages to be navigated in a language-agnostic way, and in those cases, a politically neutral, international language is best.

Social media

I do not have a social media account on any big platform, except for Reddit. That's because Reddit is one of the few platforms that respects its users' privacies enough, and doesn't require me to identify myself.
The other platforms (like Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, ...) all vehemently violate their useds' privacies in order to get more profits. I will not create an account on those. I also hope others will follow me in this decision, as being on platforms like Facebook compels others to do the same. An easy way to break their power is to refuse being used, and additionally, this makes it easier for others to act similarly.

Browsing

I fully condemn the practice of tracking people's (browser) habits for financial gain without proper consent (and no, clicking "I agree" does not imply giving proper consent), and I refuse to tolerate it. That's why I often browse using Tor to conceal my identity. You can do so likewise, even for practical purposes; the network is steadily gaining more speed because of the growing amount of people concerned with their privacy. Some offer Tor nodes that speed the network up and increase the security. If you really want to, you can also help by becoming a non-exit node (because exit nodes may get blocked by some websites, I don't recommend doing that unless you know what you're doing).

I normally would not use an adblocker to browse the web. As much as I resent the use of advertisements, I understand that keeping a website up costs money, and advertising is an easy way to fund that, a practice of which traces can be found back until the Roman empire. Because their existence is not harmful to society either, I see no valid ethical objection to an advertisement on a website, and I don't want to block them. (I also don't oppose the use of adblockers by others: I think people have a right to decide whether they want to see ads or not.)
However, I do use NoScript, which is a script blocker. It helps me stay anonymous on the internet by blocking (mostly client side) scripts that may reveal my identity. Unfortunately, a lot of websites have started using tracking scripts to trace what I see, what I do, what I surf to on the internet, and use that for advertising, profiling, and identifying me, which is ethically wrong. Because I oppose this practice, I block these scripts, and that often means that I don't see advertisements either.
There's a small annoyance to this (but I don't mind that): Some websites require some scripts to operate at all; therefore I have to manually pick for these websites what scripts to allow and which to block. The fact that these websites are erroneously built (i.e. they can't work without client code scripts) is annoying, but I don't really care that much: For some websites, that's worth it. For others, I don't bother and I don't read what's on them.
However, as a practical advantage, blocking so many scripts means my browsing is much better (which partly offsets the speed deficit caused by using Tor): A lot of websites load within a second for me, whereas with unblocked tracking, it takes easily 5-10 seconds before some webpages are fully loaded in. Additionally, the page gets sprinkled with ugly bars, elements pop in randomly and shift the page layout in grotesque ways, (a)social media buttons left and right, and often a popup regarding their use of cookies, which blocks what I want to do in the first place. What a terrible state of affairs!
If you think the increase in speed, security, and safety while browsing is totally worth clicking "Allow this script" every once in a while, then I urge you to install NoScript as well, and activate "Block scripts globally". It will make your browsing a lot better in almost every way.

Free software

I am a very strong supporter of the free/libre software movement and organizations that battle to preserve our computing freedom, which I regard as a human right. I go out of my way to find replacements for any proprietary software, and have a high tolerance for practical ease of use I'm willing to sacrifice.
Very seldom, I use Windows (often in an emulated environment) for some programs that I need to run for my university courses, as annoying and terrible I might find that.
I also voluntarily help people move from using proprietary software to free software. I feel responsible for doing so, because I'm an informatician, and not many people understand these subjects well. If you want to try it (on your own), you can find a lot of GNU/Linux distros on the internet that are pretty easy for novice free/libre software users. You can also install them alongside an existing operating system, giving you the chance to make an easy transition to computing freedom (which I admit, is difficult when you're not used to it). For your freedom's sake, I implore you to give it a shot too.

Cultural works

Although I avoid proprietary software, I take a mild approach to proprietary video games. This is because games serve a cultural/entertainment purpose, not a general/functional purpose. They're a form of art, so to speak. That's a fundamental difference from other types of software, and that reflects in how I experience the (lack of) freedom in games. I do draw the line with games that are distributed with malware, most often taking the form of DRM.
However, I still think that games also ought to be free software, because that would also make them free cultural works. Proprietary games can get lost because of technical changes (ranging from instruction set architecture to a specific high-level library), making them unplayable as time goes on.