Gerrit Niezen

Maker of open-source software and hardware.

I recently read James Wallman's “Time and how to spend it: The 7 rules for richer, happier days” after seeing a tweet from Tom Evans at Bleep Bleeps.

The first thing to understand about this book is that it talks specifically about how to spend your free time, not the time you spend at work. It does this using a mnemonic, STORIES:


We're having the back of our house re-rendered and roof repairs done at the same time. Here are some things I wish I knew before we started.

Get a breakdown of the work to be done

If the job quoted for is more than £1000, insist on a breakdown of what work is to be done. It is not a breach of trust to ask for something that will be of use to both parties involved.

Don't use MyBuilder, RatedPeople or similar marketplaces

The contractors who do the actual work don't have the time or money to pay for leads, so the ones on those sites usually sub-contract, or work the lead generation costs into their fees. Customers may be too intimidated to post negative reviews, so you only see good reviews. Rather try to get recommendations via word-of-mouth.

Don't use builders with sub-contractors

While it may make things easier for you in terms of having a single point of contact, you may end up paying twice what you would've paid if you dealt with each contractor separately. There's no guarantee that the builder treats his sub-contractors well, and he's probably taking most of the profit for himself.

#homeimprovement #renovation

The original post is here.

I sent a couple of e-mails to Cyclotricity but didn't get any response, apart from an auto-reply that stated that they received my e-mail but “server issues” may prevent them from responding. I then called their technical support, which asked me to e-mail them pictures of what's going on. That's when they gave me an e-mail address that actually works.

It turns out that there are indeed screws missing from the pannier rack they sent me, so they will replace these. They will also send me a new controller housing, since the screw was seized on the first one they sent me. It also appears that I installed the pannier rack correctly even though the images in the instruction manual does not match my kit. Lastly, they indicated that the PAS sensor has to be installed with the black part facing outwards, so I'm going to check if that is indeed the case, and then try to figure out why it's still not working.

We currently have a 2009 Ford Fiesta that's causing us more trouble than it's worth. Every now and again something else breaks and it's another half a grand down the drain to fix it. Unfortunately we wouldn't be able to manage without a car, as the public transport network in Swansea isn't that great, and you can only cycle so far in the rain.

I would love to buy a second-hand electric vehicle, but we don't have any off-street parking, nor do we have any public charge points nearby. So it seems that buying a small second-hand car is the only viable solution.

I've trying to identify which cars are the cheapest to maintain and have the fewest breakdowns, and for some reason Suzuki comes out top every time. The Celerio seems very affordable and fuel-efficient. We only drive around 5000 miles each year, so I guess the main question is whether it's big enough to fit a child's car seat comfortably.

For Valentine's Day I received two potato planter bags. We bought some seed potatoes and they have been sitting in an egg carton on our kitchen windowsill for the past two weeks. I finally got around to planting them this past weekend.

I first filled around a third of the bag with compost, then placed in the five chitted seed potatoes, and covered it in another 10 cm or so layer of compost. I then watered it really well using some rain water that I found in a container in the back yard.

Now I just have to wait until the first shoots start to appear, and then cover them with compost again. This is called “earthing up” the potatoes.


  • Use an online carbon calculator to calculate your footprint
  • Fly less and look for alternative ways to travel
  • Find your local zero-waste shops
  • Convert your bicycle into an e-bike if you need to get up hills
  • Grow your own vegetables
  • Start a compost heap
  • Buy dried instead of canned beans and legumes
  • Get a vegetarian or vegan cookbook and try out new recipes
  • Plant fruit trees
  • Join Citizen's Climate Lobby and support Carbon Fee and Dividend

A lot of produce available in UK supermarkets is grown in the Almeria region of Spain, inside a collection of greenhouses so large it can be seen from space. While these greenhouses used to be owned by various small growers, most of the greenhouses now belong to large agricultural companies.

I was wondering why this region is so successful. It turns out that because it's located at the south-eastern tip of Spain, it's close enough for Moroccan and East African migrants to work there. These migrants may not have the necessary work permits, so are not paid minimum wage or provided with any government-mandated benefits. It also turns out that even for the legal workers, their hours are under-reported, enabling the companies to greenwash their facilities. Most unions are also not interested in supporting these workers, for various reasons including racism and xenophobia.

So even if you think you think your certified produce from Spain is ethically grown, it may not be. Thanks to modern-day supply chains there is just no way of knowing the conditions in which your imported food was grown. Maybe it's time to try and grow your own?

I received a Seed Pantry Grow Pod 2 as a Christmas gift. It came with a packet of Sweet n Neat cherry tomato seeds which I planted just after Christmas. On 6 January I started seeing the first seedlings.

Tomato seedlings in a hydroponic grow pod

The grow lights are on a simple timer that is on for 16 hours and then off for 8 hours. It also has a sensor to detect the water level, and beeps until you fill it up with more water. So it's really low maintenance until the plants start flowering. That's when you have to start giving it some liquid fertiliser once a week.

Tomato plants in a grow pod

I planted some basil recently in the other pod and the seedlings just started appearing. Overall I think this is a very easy way of growing things, but maybe a bit expensive for what it is. I transplanted two tomato plants from the pod into regular pots, so it will be interesting to compare them to the two that are still in the pod.

#hydroponics #gyo

This past couple of weeks I have been converting my bicycle into an e-bike using a conversion kit. This afternoon I rode my e-bike for the first time. Installing this kit was a much bigger challenge than I at first expected, so I wanted to write down my experiences.

I ordered the conversion kit from Cyclotricity on 25 February and it arrived earlier than expected, only two days later. Unfortunately there were no instruction manuals or tools included with the kit, but I found the installation instructions online.


Before I fell asleep last night, I was mulling over the options I've been considering for writing a blog. I've been using Ghost for most of last year, but, Plume, Scuttlebutt and TiddlyWiki are starting to look like better options. The Ghost editor is not very mobile-friendly, and I'd also rather support a platform that better aligns with my values.

It seems that if I want to use my phone or iPad to write, using is a no-brainer. ScuttleButt is awesome, but the barrier of entry for non-technical users is still too high. It can take a long time to get everything installed and set up correctly. It also takes some getting used to.

Compare that with the peer-to-peer Beaker browser, which works very similar to any other web browser, even allowing you to browse regular web sites. Maybe Beaker is a better gateway drug into the P2P world? TiddlyWiki works great on Beaker browser, but cannot be accessed from a mobile device. Then again, there is nothing that prevents me from having both a blog and a personal wiki.

I guess I can just experiment with all of them for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.

Update 12 March 2019: I've decided to give a try!

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.