Kevin Wammer

Kevin Wammer

Linked: The World Needs Uncles, Too

Isaac Fitzgerald for Esquire:

I'll never be a father. But when my friends and family members had children, I learned a new way of showing up for others.

I took the same decision a few years ago. Children are just not for me, and it's a lifestyle I don't think I can live. I have yet to figure out, though, if not having children is a selfish decision or if having them is one.

But the world needs uncles, and it needs aunts. And a lot of them. I don't believe two humans (and a bunch of random teachers) are enough to show a child how to live through this tumultuous mess we call life.

So far, my favourite way of raising a child is one I took from Aldous Huxley's Island: Every child in the community gets adopted by the neighbours who take over when the biological parents are overwhelmed, or the child needs saving from the neuroses of their parents.

It takes a village to raise a child.

A new manifesto

I am changing kvn.li. I want to take it from a place where I occasionally publish a long-form piece to a public notepad where I share things I deem worth sharing.

But I am not an anarchist, not even on my playground. Below you will find a sort of manifesto. See it as guiding principles for how I will use this website.

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A steadily updated version of this manifesto can be found here.
  1. What I share I share first and foremost for myself
  2. I share what I find interesting and/or want to remember
  3. I share what I don‘t agree with if I can add something to the discussion
  4. What I share I believe to be true at the moment I share it
  5. I do my utmost best to verify what I share to be true
  6. However, I do not hold onto false truths the moment I update my knowledge and learn new facts
  7. In case of doubt, I can probably find the truth in the middle
  8. I do my utmost best to update my knowledge constantly
  9. I will never share anything that I actively know will hurt people
  10. But my goal is not to have everyone agree with what I say
  11. Neither is it my goal to have everyone disagree with what I say
  12. I will not add to drama, rage, or mob-mentality
  13. I will try out new things for the sake of trying
  14. I will not be blocked by self-doubt, or worse, perfection
  15. I will keep an open mind
  16. I don‘t let my ego interfere
  17. I will never stop learning
  18. I will revise this manifesto whenever I see fit

I automated my money

A few months ago, I signed up for bunq, one of these new neo-banks that offer you all the services of a bank through an app on your smartphone.

I’ve been eyeing neo-banks for a while, as they offer functionalities no other bank in the country where I live (Luxembourg) seems to want to adopt. Namely multiple sub-accounts, automation and API integrations. Also, and this is due to how my brain works, a card that — while it functions as a credit card technically, i.e. let me use it online — is much more akin to a debit card using the money in your bank account immediately, and not only by the end of the month.

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I am no financial expert. I don't know shit about money. So don’t take anything I explain here as a suggestion to do yourself. All I know I got from books and experts, so listen to them (with a grain of salt, of course) and not me. Seriously!

bunq offers all this and more. Between them, Revolut, N26 and some other apps I am too lazy to name here, my choice fell on bunq for two reasons: Up to 25 sub-accounts and a pretty great API.

Let’s talk a bit more about bunq in detail.

What I like

First, a disclaimer. Bunq is not my main bank account. I still own the traditional bank account I had for at least 20 years. This is where my salary comes in, and the most important bills get paid (mortgage, insurance, etc.).

I use bunq as a daily expenditure account. All the money I got there is for everything that’s not a fixed cost. The same goes for my fiancée, and we own a few shared sub-accounts.

In all, I have 14 of these sub-accounts on bunq, half of them shared. Starting with my personal ones:

Personal accounts

  • Main: This is where I wire part of my salary once a month. From here, things get automatically split between the sub-accounts, but more on that below.
  • Online Shopping: This is the account I use for random online purchases. I’ve created a digital credit card for this purpose only, which gets a new CVC code after every purchase.
  • Subscriptions: This is the account I use for all my subscriptions, e.g. Netflix, Ghost, Spotify. I have another digital credit card for subscriptions only but without changing CVC. This would be annoying otherwise. bunq has a tab for subscriptions in the app, which is a great way to check when you signed up for too much shit.
  • Offline Shopping: This is for all the purchases that are not online, like clothing or something I see in a store. I don’t use this that often so over time, money accumulates on here for more significant purchases.
  • Going Out: Whenever I believe I want to be social, I put money on this account. It’s for restaurants and drinks with friends and family (though not with my fiancée, there’s another account for that.) Whenever I run out of money on this account, I tell my friends I am poor and can’t make it. I have my main card mapped to this.
  • Savings: This is what it says on the cover. Money that goes in here gets saved for rainy days.
  • iPhone: This is a second savings account with a fixed goal, displayed in percentages. The goal is to save money to buy the next iPhone whenever it comes out in September.

Shared account

As with my main account, I share a bank account at my traditional bank for everything that is a fixed cost with my fiancée.

What follows below is — again, like with me — what we consider non-essentials, or whatever we want to budget better by using multiple accounts.

  • Restaurant: This is an account I share with my fiancée for our weekly restaurant visits or takeaway orders. We could rename it to “Sushi”, to be honest. My secondary card has this as the second account.
  • Groceries: An obvious one, this is what we use for groceries. So far, we have never had to top up the account, so our budgeting has been working. My secondary card has this as the first account, and my main card has this as a second account.
  • Shopping: Whenever we want to buy something for the apartment, this is the account we use.
  • Animals: We have two pets, a cat and a dog. This is an account that mainly accumulates money every month for our vet visits twice per year and monthly food orders.
  • Medical: For shared medical visits, aka couple’s counsellor. You should see one, too.
  • Sports: Three times per week, we see our trainer. This might be the account with the most money.
  • Holidays: This is a savings account shown in percentage. It’s called holidays, as we’re saving for a more extensive trip in September, but technically we could call it whatever.

Multiple cards

I have five cards through bunq, two digital ones, only used online (see above), and three physical ones: my primary credit card, made out of metal (though this one is on its way right now), a second credit that I use for the shared accounts only, and a third debit card as a backup for countries or stores that don’t accept credit cards.

What is excellent about cards from bunq — and I have to admit I have no clue if any other bank does this — is that you can have up to two different PIN codes per card. What this allows is you to be able to use two sub-accounts with one single card. Above in the lists, I shared what I have the cards usually mapped, too.

But it’s super easy, barely an inconvenience to quickly change the account a card uses. I’ve done this a few times by now, and I am surprised by how fast this works every time. Compare this to when I tried to change my card limit at my old bank — because I was about to buy something expensive — I had to do this several days in advance.

About automation

Many accounts mean I have a lot of money moving left and right regularly. bunq has a feature to automatically send money from one account to another whenever you have funds coming in.

But thanks to fantastic API support, I can use a second app called Flow to create automation on top of my bank account.

What this app does is that, depending on a few triggers, it sends money from one account to another.

For example, I have one flow which splits money from the main account to all the sub-accounts at the tap of one button. As I don’t always get paid on the same day and thus can’t make the wire from my OG account to bunq on the same day, I do it manually. But then, whenever the money hits bunq, I tap one button, and everything gets split to all the different accounts I mentioned above.

I also have another automation, which goes over a few of my accounts (i.e. going out, shared restaurant, and whenever something is on the main account because someone paid back something) and, at the end of the month, tops up the different savings accounts with whatever was remaining on that account for that month.

With Flow, you can have up to three free, basic automation, and if you want to go for crazy stuff, you can subscribe for three eurodollars per month. Flow also supports other banks, so you don’t need bunq for this.

A few downsides

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and neither is bunq. Here are a few annoying things:

  • There is no Apple Pay in Luxembourg. No clue why. It’s offered in other countries, but no chance if you live in Luxembourg. Feels a bit random to me.
  • There are no Luxembourgish IBANs. This one is a bit more understandable; after all, Luxembourg is tiny. But it would help a lot. So far, I only use Dutch IBANs.
  • The app is sometimes a bit buggy: Nothing major, and I never fear for my money, but as an example, the light mode is not always working correctly — then again, the light mode is labelled as a beta.
  • The community features are a bit too in your face. I don’t care about other people's problems, especially since it seems most people cannot write a proper support request. I’m happy I don’t work in customer service.
  • While nothing to do with the app and I can easily opt out of the marketing emails are sometimes… stupid. They don’t always give you value. Hey @bunq, hire my services, and I’ll fix that for you.
  • This is not strictly a bunq issue, but my OG bank being a bit old-school and annoying, blocks transfers from my OG account to my bunq-account for 24 hours. Something to do with security measures, as "there was a lot of fraud concerning neo-banks". I don't yet know if I call bullshit or not. I guess a Luxembourgish IBAN would fix this issue.

Conclusion

I like bunq. It’s my new main bank account for most of my daily expenditures. But I feel like I haven’t even scratched most of the available features. The APIs are crazy extensive, and I want to see how far I can take them.

For example, I want to see if I can find a tracking app that works great and can hook up to bunq — or maybe even write my own in Python.

I also want to see if I can create an automation which checks my savings account, and whenever it reaches a certain amount, it sends the remaining money to my investment app and buys some stock.


bunq has freed up a lot of mental energy for how I use my money. Thanks to all the automation and different sub-accounts, I never have to do the math mentally to figure out if I can go for one more beer or get this one game on sale on Steam. All it takes is a glance, and I have the answer.

A funny side-effect is that I also have more money I can use for things. So technically, I can now buy more shit. But because I only have one account dedicated to offline purchases, I don't because I don't put a lot of money on that one.

But it still takes some mental power not to use the account meant to pay the personal trainer to buy two extra-large pizzas. So far, I have been strong!

Is Google Dying? Or Did the Web Grow Up?

Charlie Warzel for The Atlantic:

Like many, I use Google to answer most of the mundane questions that pop up in my day-to-day life. And yet that first page of search results feels like it’s been surfacing fewer satisfying answers lately. I’m not alone; the frustration has become a persistent meme: that Google Search, what many consider an indispensable tool of modern life, is dead or dying. For the past few years, across various forums and social-media platforms, people have been claiming in viral posts that Google’s flagship product is broken.

I switched to DuckDuckGo a few years ago and only use Google through a Bang command, mostly when looking for hyper-local content. But the few times I have to use Google's search engine, I see the same bad results Warzel describes in his article.

He continues:

Brereton’s most intriguing argument for the demise of Google Search was that savvy users of the platform no longer type instinctive keywords into the search bar and hit enter. The best Googlers—the ones looking for actionable or niche information, product reviews, and interesting discussions—know a cheat code to bypass the sea of corporate search results clogging the top third of the screen. “Most of the web has become too inauthentic to trust,” Brereton argued, therefore “we resort to using Google, and appending the word ‘reddit’ to the end of our queries.”

This has slowly become my go-to way to look for anything, even on DuckDuckGo. There is a website called Redditle, which uses Google's site-search feature to only look at Reddit. It's one of my most visited websites nowadays.

Unlike Google's results, I know (or at least believe) that most content on Reddit has been written by users looking for genuine answers or recommendations. So far, the bots and search engine experts haven't tapped into Reddit, and I doubt they will have much impact due to how Reddit works. (People upvote the good stuff and downvote the bad stuff. And while a bot army could impact that, mods can take these faked posts down.)

If I were the CEO of Reddit, I'd focus a lot of development effort on making Reddit's native search much better and much more central to a logged out Reddit-experience.

How I use the Steam Deck

I‘ve warned you in my last overkill select. Now here is the first of many more posts to come. Let‘s talk about Steam Deck.

For those who follow me but live under a rock, a little explanation first. The Steam Deck is a handheld gaming device from Valve, makers of Steam, Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Portal and some other pieces of software. (They also make the Valve Index VR goggles, but that‘s a bit more niche.) While it is an injustice for both devices, the Steam Deck is most often compared to the Nintendo Switch.

But in reality, while both are handheld devices to play games on, that‘s about where all the similarities end. Because the Steam Deck is, in fact, a full-fledged PC, and it runs a whole Linux distro named steamOS in the background. This means you can do anything you want, unlike the Switch, which you must jailbreak first to install software not allowed by Nintendo.

Now, this opens up a whole plethora of scenarios. This makes the device theoretically much more complicated to use if you dislike tinkering. (I say theoretically because, in reality, you can stay in the gaming environment of steamOS and never touch any configuration files or even a file manager.)

I am, however, a tinkerer. I like working and breaking things, which is why my Steam Deck configuration might be a bit different from your typical go-to experience. Let me show you what I mean.

The gaming handheld

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First and foremost, I think I spend 80% of my time in the gaming mode of steamOS. I have around 40ish odd games installed, most of them supported out of the box without me having to work on any configurations. The games work, Valve labels them as verified or playable, and that‘s how I spend the majority of my time.

For the few odd games that Valve has yet to test or might even label as unplayable, some more work is needed. But thanks to the fantastic protondb website, you‘ll quickly find ways to make games work you thought unplayable. Sure, this is a bit more involved, but often all you have to do is to change the compatibility layer, maybe copy-paste some few lines of code, and they run magically.

Protondb is so good, if I see a game I want to install, I don‘t bother checking Valve‘s rating system anymore. Straight I go to check protondb. I wish there were a plugin for steamOS to include the protondb-rating into Steam.

The emulation station

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I had to speed up this video to fall below Ghost's 10MB file size limit.

I am a sucker for old games, especially those exclusive to Nintendo hardware. So you can bet your ass that I installed emulators.

On the Steam Deck, this process is much easier than on my gaming PC, thanks to a tool called EmuDeck. (This might have become easier on PC since I last installed emulators from scratch a few years ago.)

EmuDeck launches a script to download, install and configure most emulators. This way, you can ensure that all the controller configurations have been set up. The tool is also frequently updated, so now EmuDeck even includes a hook into the gyroscope of the Steam Deck to use in something like Cemu, the Wii U emulator. This allows you to use the gyroscope with the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild. (I had to do this by hand before.)

But the Steam Deck can’t run everything. Emulating the PS4 might be the upper limit. Also, the state of Switch emulation is not so fun. Then again, I own a Switch.

Unfortunately, so is the state of Xbox 360 emulations on Linux — it just doesn’t run at all. This saddens me because I‘d like to play Fable 2 and 3, which have either not been released on PC (Fable 2) or been delisted from purchase before I could get them (Fable 3). But this is where my next category comes into play.

AAA-games on Ultra

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The Steam Deck is a portable device. While people are still amazed by how well it plays some modern games at 60 FPS without frame drops, it is not as powerful as the RTX 3070 in my gaming PC.

But thanks to Moonlight, for games that either don‘t run on Linux at all (primarily due to anti-cheat software, or in the case of Xenia explained above) or are too heavy to play well on Steam Deck (Cyberpunk2077, etc.), you can use the power of your PC to stream the game to the Deck.

While there is a streaming solution baked into Steam called Remote, I’ve had a better experience using Moonlight — if you own an Nvidia GPU. (There is Sunshine, which is Moonlight but for AMD GPUs. I have not tried that, as I have never owned an AMD GPU.)

I can play high-fidelity games like Cyberpunk at max settings at 60FPS without taxing my Deck. This also has the advantage of being battery-friendly and enabling me to play these games for 6 hours straight.

Also, I use Moonlight to play Hearthstone on the couch. I could use my iPad but miss my deck tracker in this scenario.

It‘s a PC, dumbass

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And finally, and this is probably the most obvious one, the Steam Deck is a PC.

So I carry a USB-C dock with HDMI and a few USB-A ports to hook the Deck to a monitor and attach a mouse and keyboard. This way, I can use it as a laptop in desktop mode and do some light browsing. Or for whenever I need to do crazy terminal commands, to get weird whacky shit to run. (I tried, so far unsuccessfully, getting Cheat Engine to run on the Steam Deck.)

I haven‘t set up this thing as a complete replacement for any of my computers. I am primarily a Mac guy and carry my MacBook to most places I think I need a computer. But at least now, I theoretically have a backup solution everywhere I go.

And technically, since most of my work at my company is based on the browser (we use Amazon‘s SageMaker, among other web-based solutions), I could use the Steam Deck as a work device.

I, of course, would never play a game at work and tab to the browser whenever someone looks at my screen. Obviously. Naturally……

Ok, yes, I totally would.