A Time To Reflect

As I write this I realise that this blog as been neglected for a long time. Most of last year was spent doing other stuff like work and stuff around the home, I also got lazy with this kind of thing. I even forgot to go on holiday. But the past few weeks I have spent alot of time doing computer stuff. Things went wrong, sometimes big time which meant stuff had to be done and I learnt a lot. My nexus 5 and Samsung s5 have both died, the s5 seems to hate the winter cold so goes into hibernation. This as led to a new addition, oneplus 3t, why not the 5 or 5t? simple, it was far cheaper to buy a year old phone than a newer model. I haven’t got around to rooting it yet, no time but somehow I managed to unlock the bootloader and couldn’t move on to the next stage. I swore and left it for now. The battery life is so much better, however I am still looking for a decent news app.

The new Firefox with its new engine also meant changes, basically nit screwed up everything and I’ve stopped using it. I think there was no thought for what people wanted. I can’t use my yubikey, password manager (no I ain’t using the built in one). This meant two things, the first I went straight over to Vivaldi and no complaints. The second was that due to the yubikey no longer working I was unable to access my nextcloud box. This meant starting again with that, I decided to give nextcloudpi a try, after much messing about and issues I was successful with the developer being a huge help with the issues. I now have access on all my devices and the latest version unlike the official nextcloud box pi3 version I had before which quite frankly although OK wasn’t meant for ease of use.

With the end of 2017 comes the unease of mind that the pebble servers will be shut down. The ex head of pebble claimed about a month ago that he wasn’t sure when the server would go but I am not taking chances, I’ve moved to gadgetbridge. I have had very few issues, the one at the moment is dealing with double notifications from inbox. I also seem to have lost canned responses. I do miss snowy and voice replies.

I hope to do more detailed posts over the coming weeks on the above subjects.


AI still as on long way to go

Its all the rage now, it’s seems that the future of computing seems to be around AI. So what are they talking about? Simple, anything that talks possibly?

I recently caved in or more exactly, the child within couldn’t resist and went and got my hands on a Google assistant or home or what ever you want to call it. It came with a free googlecast which was actually more of a pain in the rear than anything so it was left unplugged. Having read about mycroft that is likely to be played with at a future date but not now.

First impressions were, this is pretty good but AI? For an intelligence it’s pretty stupid. This isn’t very intelligent because you have to train it. Being in the UK may also mean there are limitations because as usual some one at Google didn’t think that all countries are equal. If they release something then maybe where it comes then ask features should be available. No, I’m not going to try Amazon thingy because that company is still banned in my house. So far I have got it setting alarms, telling the weather, etc. I have tried the IFTTT stuff but that still needs work. The next thing will be sending texts if possible and opening curtains but that will be when I have time and something that also works with home assistant.

Trying To Move my phone forward but guess what

For a long time I have occasionally suggested that I wanted to move on from android or at least to a set up where I have much more control. Recently I had the opportunity to give a nexus 5 a loving home after seeing it in a second hand phone shop. Its condition was good enough for me so it came home with me. My view was to install ubuntu touch on to because I had read that OS more or less worked or seen a number of videos with working phones. I found the instructions to install it and followed it to the letter using my kubuntu set up. All looked promising until I tried adjusting times and installing apps. Yeap, fine but then the apps failed to open. This was bad and not what I was expecting, a search on the internet for several hours provided no solution except a lot of others with this exact problem with no solution or bug fix presented. This is had also some how affected how the phone turned on and so moving on proved very difficult but this was latter over come. I felt that this was not the way to go…

Thoughts turned another alternative.

I had also read about plasma phone. Thankfully there are also decent instructions on the plasma phone website and with the phone already unlocked and with TWRP already installed it was a simple matter of following the instructions which worked a treat. One of the issues in all this was me still learning the command line but if you don’t make the effort and learn in practical terms then you ain’t going to progress forward. I found I wasn’t typing the command right because I was missing the name of the user in the CD directory line. I did at one point cheat by opening the location of the download and opening with terminal, hey Presto, I found out what the earlier mistake was and still able to install the new os. This also had draw backs. Even more than before. Basically I found it unusable with lack of apps and issues with installing. It would not keep the Wi-Fi settings either. Time to move on!

My conclusion from all of this is that the alternatives to the major two are lacking but if they are developed much further then they will have a chance. Both looked promising but at the moment they are lacking in many areas. Both are relatively young os’s but for the amount for time that ubuntu touch as been developed I would have expected more. On top of this ubuntu touch development seems to have stagnated. Not sure what is going on with plasma phone though, this seems even further behind. I shall wait and see how these go. I have read that canonical are reworking ubuntu touch so hopefully I may be able to revisit later when they bring a new phone out (I hope) due to nothing available now or in production on the near future.

But I had the TWRP installed so I moved to a custom ROM, as in back to android but not the factory one. Most of the custom ROMS seeemed to be of line or unreachable. Hence I installed the resurrection ROM, this was a pain due to my lack of experience in such matters and needing to linux instructions which are lacking. I tried the instructions that I could find but these largely didn’t work but a bit of digging I found what I wanted buried in articles. These articles were found to miss one little detail out which meant I wasted about an hour or so trying to copy to the phone then going into recovery and not finding the zip file. Eventually a close looking at the pictures I found the answer, copy said file to the TWRP folder. When I did the recovery and clicked on install had a couple of failures but each time I checked the errors and found that this was caused by not clearing the cache. I also made the mistake of not installing grads at the same time but found that I could do this separating but I found that that instructions for installing had a mistake in them, this that the link didn’t take you to the file which is needed for the current version of the Rom which is based on android N. Another search and I got the page I needed. I used openggad which I just copied into the twrp folder as before and installed it. I was able to select what Google apps I wanted without the whole lot leaving unused apps of the phone.

A Year In Review 2016

This is the last day of 2016, a year that can easily be labeled not very good. We have lost a number of talented famous people and some not so. It has been a poor year in my mind for great advances in tech and has far as I am concerned. This may be due to developers losing interest in projects or lack of time and money. Each day as seen reports of companies and websites being broken into by criminals and information stolen. Each week it seems to bring reports of companies such as pebble for example running into trouble and disappearing. Apps which people love seem to disappear or are no longer developed and having to be replaced by others for various reasons. Sometimes it is worth while to stick with the original because there is nothing better, although there will be the risk that insecurities will not be dealt with these due to no updates.

For those who watch the security alerts it is obvious that the Internet is becoming a battle ground. Not just due to data breaches but governments trying to control by denying access or in some cases such as the UK snoopers charter taking away our internet freedoms. Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet as said that it may be time to start work on its replacement. I don’t see things getting any better!

I would not be surprised if 2017 saw things get worse and it will be up to the individual to take care of things themselves through the use of VPN’s and email accounts such as Protonmail, etc. If using these services it is likely that the user will have to pay to get full advantage but I think it is worth it because costs that the companies have for development and server costs need to be covered. A simple search should bring sites up that will compare the offerings and the user can then pick what is right for them. I understand from my readings that some countries try and restrict access to these services and certain apps. It is from this that I suggest that the internet will become a battle ground. Users will be looking for security and privacy, governments will be looking to restrict access to apps and the internet in general with surveillance common place. And on top of that users including companies will have attacks coming from criminals, overseas governments, etc trying to access their data.

So what is there to brighten the mind? Some good stuff as become available, the first thing that comes to mind is the nextcloud box which I have written about. This gives the user the opportunity to store their data such as documents and photos on their own server which is possible to keep disconnected from the internet but still available to devices on the home network. This device also as the ability to be a hub for IoT but I have not explored yet as I need to fix connection issues. The forking, disappearance of or in some cases, the ending or risk of ending of the services for some devices such as pebble and also software such as cyanogenmod has seen the communities come together to keep the projects alive. We saw this with libreoffice for example and the end result as been a much better product so 2017 could become a make or break year for some projects with some becoming much better or just the life of the hardware being extended. There are many projects that are flourishing and I hope they are successful in making a difference. I hope to cover some as I find the ones that are of use in my day to day life.

What off wearables? These always had a limited market so I am not surprised sales tailed off somewhat. I am suspecting there are a number of reasons but the main one could well be that most people don’t care or see the advantages of them, or simply have no need for them. Most people only seem to care for facebook which I hate with a passion! Wearables seem to be of more interest to those who like tech and see the advantages. I would not be surprised if the sales of these devices stayed low, but watch this space as they say.

On a personal level I have seen several apps and services die away or simply become of less use. Currently I seem to be developing a new system of interconnected devices that suit my needs. Privacy being a main point with a day course in the summer and an on line course currently in progress. I’ve also got my hands on some new books to enable me to advance further and hopefully answer some question that will allow the completion off some projects. The only way to shape the future is to improve on what we have and make things more secure. Hopefully I will be able to fix the issues I currently I have an post the result to fix the problems.


Apps No Longer Fit For Use Replaced

There comes a time when an app that you were happy with when you first used them become stale, old or change to the point that you no longer want to use them. In some cases they can be replaced with apps that actually work better. In other cases you have to make do.

The first app that I recently replaced was the one that came preinstalled on my S5, it was the one that made use of the ir feature on the phone to control the TV. I was really happy with it until it became PEEL, things changed slowly. Features started to creep in which I really wasn’t happy with. Looking at the playstore review section not many others liked it either. The biggest bug bear was the advert that became a right pain, offers to pay a fee to get rid of them went unheeded. So I tried several and best one I found for my uses was IR universal remote. Its relativity simple and offers exactly what I want although at the moment I’m mostly using demand TV and Kodi so an app that turns the TV on and off and alters the volume would be OK and all I really need. Recent updates to the roku app are in my opinion have made it less useful. Its latest layout does give the remote a default that means it opens with a screen of your apps which is not what I want. I’m finding this somewhat negative but there again I’m finding myself mostly using libreelec with just two catchup apps used in the roku akthough over a period of a few weeks since I last added to this post I have since ditched the roku altogeather due to it being somewhat useless. Instead I have watched TV when the shows have actually been on and used the Kodi device more.

For Kodi I am now using Yatse, much better experience and more functions which I have still to explore, parly due to time and also spending time trying to get other stuff improved/fixed. Yatse is best paid for as you get more from it

Lately Kodi has been in the news thanks to the pre installed boxes…don’t touch these!! Kodi itself have distanced themselves from these devices and quite rightly. I am concerned that miss information in the main stream newspapers and TV will harm this fantastic piece of software which is perfectly legal.

Not So Good Easytag

With libreelec running well on my raspberry pi I have been tinkering around with it and its just getting better each time I find or think of something else. So now I’m adding new music via file manager, ssh would do the same thing but the file manager is easier. I don’t download music unless I’m using bandcamp which as ogg files, mp3 is rubbish so I’m not interested. The main option is to rip CD’s or digitize my records into digital files and add the cover art. For this I was using easytag to add the artwork and other info if the files are from vinyl.

I haven’t done this for a while and found that I needed easytag, this time it didn’t behave, I couldn’t resize the window for a start then I realised that I had getting annoyed before because each file has to be realty with on there on. Yes, I tried looking for the setting to do several flies at once but could find it. From this point I looked for something else, taking into consideration the plasma desk top I tried Kid3. Very happy with the result.

I actually found that it was easier to do block processing as I was able to highlight all of the tracks and add the cover art in one go unlike before when I had to do each track individually. I haven’t tried adding other details yet as I haven’t needed to but will when I digitise some of my recent records. Honestly, I liked easytag but it just doesn’t seem to work as it used to or should. Kid3 seems to be the one for me but I don’t see it mentioned that much.


Raspberry media player redone

As reported in my previous post, a few weeks ago I finally got to set up my pi3 as a media player, I set it up using the noobs thing simply because it was easier. I chose Openlec in the menu, I had tried installing kody before but that hasn’t gone according to plan, this did. It worked great and I was happy, apart from one or two issues with the way that I had the files set up.

After a while I realised that no updates had come through so I did a bit of checking and all I find were suggestions for manual updates. I really didn’t have time for that at the time so left it. About three weeks ago I stumbled on the reason why nothing was happening with Openlec. It had been abandoned! Why this hasn’t been made more public is downright rude. Apparently the developers had simply stopped what they were doing. A bit more checking and I found that a large portion ( not sure how many) had forked the project and started to do what they thought was right. Straight away I saw that they had done the right thing.

The name of the fork is libreElec which seems to be making great progress. When I came to do the install I tried their installer which failed. Yes I followed the instructions but due to a command error it didn’t happen. This was done with an older version nd a couple of updates have come out so things may have changed. Plan b, noobs from the raspberry pi website was used, I noticed that libreelec was now in place of its now dead origin so the installation was painless and simple. This also coincided with the arrival of a raspberry pi 3. Within a short while all was good and things were running. I also fixed the issue with the photos taking the tiff files out of the folders because there caused the device to freeze up. Music was still left to be dealt with, very untidy the way they were done in terms of use with kodi.

The system is slowly changing and improving as I discover better ways of doing things and new features as well. Searching the wiki when I think of improvements as given lots of answers of how to do things corrrectly, if I haven’t worked it out or fudged it first. Currently I have got it working direct with an external hardrive so that I don’t have to add the tracks each time I turn it on. I have also got it working fine with my pebbletime. The app of choice is opus, the other two have either had no updates for over a year or couldn’t connect. When seeing this up make sure to put the port number at the end so you have for example 453.675.1.###:8080 (number made up, didn’t think I’d put my real number did you?)

On the phone I can control the system with yatse, works better than the dedicated app for kodi with far more features. It’s with paying for this app because several more features are unlocked but I haven’t got around to seeing them up yet. Simple to set and use as well.


Cloud Doing My Head In

The past few months have seen many changes in the cyper and software world. Several have past me by, while important to most people I am simply not interested because I don’t have need for it. Like most people I pick and choose what I want that I can use in my current project to make my life easier. One of these is having my own cloud. Six months ago I would have said owncloud would be perfect, especially with the project in conjunction with a major hardrive manufacture. Then along came the news that owncloud had been forked to become nextcloud. So I thought it best wait a bit to see what happens. Behold, a couple of months or so ago the next cloud box was announced so I ordered it for £60 I thought it was to good to wait. It arrived just after I got back from holiday. I used my spare raspberry pi 2 b+ but I had issues, pretty big issues. More reading and I ended up buying raspberry 2, try again and same thing so I started from scratch again. The first issue was that I was able to gain access at first but the following day nothing! The bigger issue is that although I was able reach it via the browser I was not able to reach it via ssh and it wasn’t showing on the network in the file manager.by plugging a keyboard and mouse in the

Once I had everything up and running again I found that one of the issues may have been that a screen saver was in place on the system. I found this out by plugging a keyboard and mouse in the pi. I found that I could manage the little box set up this way but I still wanted to do it via SSH due to the wire  trailing every where. I fixed the problem of not being able to connect via SSH and the command line simply by install Putty. The wiki on the nextCloud website said the command line and Putty for windows but they may need to change it. I had to install Putty via synaptic due to the software centre on kubuntu not having it. Actually it doesn’t seem to have much of what I need! Problem one solved.

The other connection problem is still a work in progress. I can connect via the browser but I need to fix the https settings which I have self signed due to lack of internet connection issues. Which is weird because I can do updates for the system and nextcloud but connecting via applications on android and my laptop, Nope. At the moment I am wondering if its either a setting in the router or a port is closed or restricted. A great opportunity to learn networking as presented itself. Maybe I could compare the settings with my libreelec set up. But I am currently thinking that lack of connection maybe a good thing in keeping all my stuff private, although maybe it doesn’t work like that.


Things come and go

As I write this I realise that I haven’t said what has been going on with the various technologies that I use or play with for while and this post was started a few weeks ago. Recently has seen a few changes with things that I use or used to. For example, I used to use Skype to keep in touch with friends over seas and family but as I have written before its no longer an option for various reasons, mostly its now Microsoft and they have ruined it. The sound quality now sucks even more than it did and the android version was good at crashing and I thought it was just me but a a recent chat with the a windows user confirmed it was a wide spread problem. The linux version was also a problem in that it hadn’t been updated fora long time and was often not working, etc. In the past couple of months they have announced a new version of the linux application, however I feel that this is mostly aimed at the chrome people because it seems more of a web app than a desk top app. Off course they would do this because they see that system as a possible cash cow. In my opinion Microsoft still don’t like linux, just look at their patent record. Will I give it a try? No, because I don’t use it often enough and won’t give microsoft money. What is really needed is a cross platform video calling system that is independent of all the major companies so that they cannot favour their system and chase trouble for others.
Other changes in progress is the phone. My phone contract is up for renewal in a few weeks and it will not be renewed! EE have been fobbing me off for two years with their so called high speed 4g service, I cannot get it at home instead I have to rely on  Wi-Fi booster box which actually has become down right unreliable. Last week I tested a giffgaff card which worked perfect straight off with 4g in my home. Perfect but I still have to wait for the contract to run out. With the new company I can change what I pay each month depending on my situation and it’s half the price. My current phone still works fine but I expect I may change it before the end of the year to another unlocked phone which I can root and make my own. I am off the option that this is the best way to go and will go as far to say that contracts and locked phones need to be phased out, even banned to give the user a lot more freedom and control. I expect this will never happen due to the large companies having to much control in the world. About time time users went to a better deal like giffgaff  in the UK or possibly ring in USA, not sure about else where.

I have also got my raspberry pi2 working as a media player, kodi but installed it using one of the preconfigured systems. Its not perfect and is a work in progress, certain things are causing problems but these can be ironed out. As I move forward with this I am learning more of what it can do, dealing with tiff files isn’t one of them so I am having to go through all of my photos and remove the tiff photos (on a seperate harddrive to the main storage). Not a bad thing though as it means that I have been able to find pictures in the wrong place as well as a lot duplicates.

Vivaldi Improving Quickly

Yes, I admit it. I am late in posting about this but things got really busy over the past few weeks but at least it gave me time to check it properly.  Any way, its given me time to play with new browser Vivaldi (available here https://vivaldi.com ). Its available for linux and I expect other systems but I don’t check that because I don’t care for those. I downloaded it straight from the website and strongly suspect that it isn’t in the repos for Ubuntu and its various versions, nope, ain’t checked that either. At first I found it somewhat frustrating that I had to keep going back to Firefox (which I still really like) due to constant failures. I found that certain things didn’t work such as keepass at first but a few updates and they work fine. Early releases off new stuff always has problems so I kept testing and now use it most of the time.

The current problem that I have now is that some settings are missing or hidden that I have been used to in Firefox and what I really want is the one that I click once so that in the future history is deleted when I end the browser session. However, one of things with Vivaldi is that its more for the power user and one of the functions is being able to take notes so I am suspecting that if history was deleted on shut down then the notes will either be lost or useless.

The browser is based on the chrome engine so chrome add-ons can be used. I did think about trying join ( a thingy that connects devices) but seeing as though I use KDE which has KDE connect I really don’t see the rush, it would be nice to know though. The keepass app that I using works well, actually I tried a couple of others which were failures as far as I am concerned. Keepass actually works better with Vivaldi compared to Firefox.

Visually, its not bad but really needs to be more customizable like theming along the lines of Firefox. Just using colours is similar to the look of android which is boring but then just having colours means there is not a lot to distract the user. The lay out is nice, better access to history would be nice though. Having things such as bookmarks and downloads access from a bar on the side is a good touch.

I actually started to wright this a few weeks ago and Vivaldi has now become my default browser on my laptop. It actually seems to be improving all the time. Speed seems to be the thing, its faster and various functions are handy when I find them. Based on the Chrome engine which I absolutely hate but this has everything I need. I see  bright future for this browser and hope it gains more popularity.