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 ). 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.


Step counters can be fooled!

I recently saw an article that stated that step counters on fitbits and watches could be fooled using certain methods by lazy people. All they had to do was to attach the device to the pet dog or cat but I suppose any animal would do, or even a any child but not a lazy cat!

A few weeks ago I thought that I would try the fitness thingy on my pebble. This worked fine when I was interested in how much I was walking. Mostly to check that I was actually getting enough exercise during the day. The result so far is yes in most cases and that I found that low step counts coincided with days of feeling low energy, the more steps the better I felt. However, here’s the good bit. I found that when I was at work digging with a trowel (archaeology stuff), my watch still counted the trowelling movements and I could generally not move much and still gained alot steps on the counter thus following the health activity sensors.

Also on the pebble is the sleep thingy, I really don’t have much use for this so turned it off. Who actually wears a watch to bed? Seems a bit silly and awkward feeling  to me. The other thing is these step counters aren’t much good during the week if I’m at home because generally I have the phone in one location with the watch sat next to it. Mostly because when I’m home I see no point carrying the phone around while at the same time not really caring what the time is. But then that just me


That darn raspberry

The past few months have been pretty grotty with with lots of rain and coldness (someone said it called Winter) So I have taken the chance to play with something new. The raspberry pi that I bought myself for Christmas (yeah, right,  any excuse) was got out of the box with a view to setting up owncloud. All I  can say is that there seems to be no set way of doing this. I followed one set of instructions to find problems because there issues with packages no longer used or out of date and no updates forth coming. Other sets of instructions said something else,  come on people,  keep your instructions up to date and at least correspond with others. It would be nice to have one central place where the most up to date information on this kind of thing was kept and if anyone found alterations or improvements in any part of the setup needed making then they should be able to add these to update the information.

So, I decided to put the wordpress project on hold for a while and set up the pi as normal following the instructions on the website and it works like a dream. I am going to use it for messing around and learning to code. Which I think was the origin intention before makers got their grubby hands on it and came up with lots of good useful stuff. I did have a little trouble on start up at first.

One point that I found needed to be made aware of is that there is a little switch on the SD card holder on the board itself that makes it read only and you can only read the card and able to run the system. That was found in a little article after wasting 4 hours trying to reset up the device (had worked first time). My initial try had gone so badly wrong that I decided to redo the card but the switch may have been in the wrong position (its really hard to find).

Expect more on this in the future!


Not a Swift Smart Move!

Right! A rant…

This week we saw the news that Microsoft had gone and bought Swiftkey, in my view the best keyboard for Android. I have been using Swiftkey for a while, beginning in the old days when they charged you. As in I paid them literately a week before they when free. When it was first announced I got the new snazy version,neural with the IA which had a lot promise but no updates were forth coming.

Then last week they go and sell out to the Microsoft scum! I am not at all happy about this due to my total mistrust of the Micro$oft lot. I am hoping that Swiftkey can continue moving forward as they have been but I will no longer be seeing what they get up to.


I have decided that I will take a stand and not use this keyboard for a number of reasons. The first is obvious if you have read previous posts. I simply don’t trust Microsoft, from the side lines I have been watching what they get up to and I really don’t like it. I fear that my personnal data will be up loaded via the keyboard, remember, what you type in goes up the line to Swiftkeys servers to make the typing better which is does but with the larger company involved I don’t feel at all happy. I am also concerned that Swiftkey itself will be badly affected as it gets added to Microsoft products (which is why they bought it) and the end result may well not be pretty (look at skype, nokia, etc). I strongly believe that that this is a very bad idea.

So SwiftKey, best off luck with your new overlords because I and many others won’t be there to help you!

Oh! by the way…I want my money back!


You Call That a Smart TV?

I have had a bit of fun recently with my mind going on overdrive. Spread over the past couple of months I have had a couple of visits to the ‘toy shop’ (Maplins). Around mid December I decided to go a head and go for the home server but this as seen some side benefits. The first was the much thought ‘that would be nice’ network cable sort out so a multi cable box came home with me.

I spent most of one day a couple of weekends ago getting my cables more organized and finished by setting up a small network or should that be a called something else? What it basically is, is that a I have one ethanet cable coming into the room and I needed more. One for the Roku,  one for the TV and one for the home server. When I tested it all worked fine,  my Samsung TV hadn’t been connected for close to a year so the expected update took place and the Internet interface got updated as well. Close to 30 apps,  most of which were of no use or interest to me so I wasted half an hour uninstalling things. If this so called smart TV was smart it wouldn’t have installed them in the first place. What I was left with wasn’t much different from the Roku and what I essentially got was Samsung sponsored junk. More I think about it the more I want another Raspberry pi  for a home media centre along the lines of Kodi. Let’s look on the bright side,  I can now control my TV with my Pebble watch! I am strongly suspecting that much newer smart TV’s are better than this but at least Kodi would let me have more control what apps are downloaded.


Update with a view of going forward

Looking back over this year I realize that my posts have been few and far between and mostly to do with little more than what has been voiced else where unless I have been thinking about expanding on something with my thoughts. Once or twice I have commented on new stuff if it has interested me. I have also not done much tinkering and trying to get stuff changed to what I wanted. Well that is going to change over the next few weeks.

I plan on a post about my experience with kubuntu 15.10 and then on to a couple of current projects. The first project has come about due to recent data attacks on big companies. This largely involves going through my passwords,  etc and changing them but a password manger is involved as well. I have also signed up for a mooc course on internet security. The start of this project has been covered already with the KeePass post.

The second main project has an off shoot or three. This is the centred around a home server and a personal network (the first off shoot). This project has encouraged me to get my grubby hands on a raspberry pi, what inspired this is the recent announcement by ownCloud regarding its community project to use Raspberry pi’s and digital data hard drives to bring the possibility of personal home servers to the masses. Me, being me think this is great and a way to save some money and to set a challenge to set up a home server and get something done that I have been wanted for a long time. The good thing about this project is that it will encourage me get off my butt and learn to code (the other off shoot). It may also encourage me to get a second raspberry pi and and build a media centre (the other off shoot). Why ? Although pretty darn good I am finding two things wrong with the Roku, the first is that I feel some channels are missing and I feel a little restricted in what is available. The second is that I have had it with the Roku people changing my theme to a seasonal one when they feel like it which gives me a feeling that I am not in control of MY device.

Well, that’s the next few weeks taken care off and expect some posts with updates covering the progress on how I accomplish these including mistakes and how various problems are over come. It is likely that other things will come up that I need to cover…like home automation and true smart phone functions on my phone.



Sumsung S5 (UK) Got a Lollipop

After the update of android lollipop about a month ago to my nexus 7 (2012) I was some what pleased with the results although the machine itself is still slow in loading stuff like google plus and one or two other internet related stuff but otherwise it really isn’t that bad. I have found that after some time, the phone and tablet are speeding up but at times the battery doesn’t last as long as it did but there are improvements. About a week ago I received notice that the update for my S5 was available. As with the other update it arrived quite late in the evening but I did the update then as I was due to go away for a couple of days. All went well with very little changes in my set up. When the thing came up to ask if I wanted notifications on the lock screen I ticked no. I really don’t see any point in them as I mostly deal with stuff via my pebble. I checked and found that the google apps and one or two others were still disabled which they were. I haven’t had much chance recently to see what else I can do with this phone as I have been somewhat busy with other things but this weekend should see that opportunity present itself. So far the main problem that has reared its head is that finger unlocking as got a little stuck which can be fixed by pressing the on button off and on so to give present the lock screen again. The enables the finger print scanner again and this time it works as it should.

Since I started this post my phone as since received an update and still seems OK for about a week with the finger scanner still have issues after a few days. I have also made some changes which I will deal with soon.


Music Streaming, Just What is the Solution?

This past week music streaming and in particular, Spotify as been in the news with Taylor Swift (who ever she is), pulling her music from Spotify and giving reasons as to why (I think she is a hypocrite  because she has left her stuff on youtube where you and every other person listens for free). It as highlighted one of the problems faced by musicians today. Musicians from all genres have for decades had to fight/put up with various lessening of their income in particular thanks to the internet. I have touched on the subject before concerning illegal downloads but streaming is a whole different ball game. The whole thing has highlighted the plight of musicians not getting paid what they deserve. I personally consider streaming a good ideal as it enables people to find new bands if using radio feature or listen to new music while saving up for the album (in my case spent /gone waayyy over their music allowance).

However, despite coming out in favour of Spotify and others I feel that it is about time that free streaming needs to end! People need to learn to pay for their music and support their favourite bands. I also think that musicians are acting grossly unfair by, has I see it, picking out Spotify in particular. They need to act against Youtube as well, it is well know that many people use Youtube to listen to music for free.

So who’s fault in all this? Everyone.

The solution is difficult to find but the general public need to be educated that music needs to be paid for because otherwise the artists will not have the money to continue. But having said this I am convinced that they really don’t care about what they listen to. Just look at the charts, listen to public radio, etc. The music mostly sucks because the good stuff as been knocked out of the way because people just don’t care!

This all comes at a time that I have more or less settled into a personal music revolution or a reverse to old habits combined with new internet advantages. I have started buying vinyl again because it sounds better and not prone to being lost due to faulty harddrives, failing that, CD’s. If I do download then I only do it if the files are ogg format or something else better than mp3 (which sucks big time). This does of course mean that my subscription to emusic is no more and if anything thing changes with their downloads then I will be unable to update the post on that subject.


The Lockedin System Craze is Bad

In recent months two keynote speeches made by Apple and Google have shown how their systems will be interconnected with all your stuff across all devices and seemingly locked in to the system of that one company as you are restricted to their services to enable this and no one elses. You will not be able to own devices by both companies and easily use the services of both. For example. if you use an apple phone and other stuff from the company with a big steel wall you cannot use anything google for example unless you use third party apps and then you have no chance of using iTunes (not that any sane person would want to). Its the same with google, they appear to be getting more like apple with the way they try and lock you into their system. Their API’s are being replaced with their propriety ones thus shutting people out. Beside, google services and apps don’t seem to have a safe life, they seem to die at some point but I have written about this before. The only company that seems to be seeing what is happening and is likely to benefit from all this is Microsoft. Since the new boss as arrived they seem to be more user friendly than the other two who are becoming not so. Microsoft have released apps to enable the use of their services on all systems thus giving users more or less equal chance of benefiting. In the end the company that is able to allow access to services across all platforms/systems will benefit the most.

While I can see the benefit of having all your stuff available on all your devices, its nothing new. With a little thought and research you can but third party apps are often needed (often better than those dedicated for purpose from the big companies)  but there is the added benefit that you have more control. I am also suspecting that if you don’t use google apps for example then you cannot have your use monitored by that company. Which is another reason why I think companies are trying to lock you in, to monitor or a better word for it, spy on you. In googles case, make more money from you using your data for adversing purposes. Has far as I am concerned I can see this all as a huge disadvantage to the user.

First, you are restricted to just one company, if their servers go, then your stuff is gone unless you have it backed up on your own hard drives. Second, their devices may not fit you, by that I am suggesting that the device will not be right for you and what you intend to use it for. The locked in attitude may also mean that you will not be able to customize it to be fit for your personal use and your situation.

Secondly, and this will become increasingly problematic especially if each company insists on you using their file formats. People will not be able to share photos, documents and other things. For example, it will mean companies will have to waste money on ensuring that they can send files to other companies which they can open. Either they will have to have all systems in their offices or all companies the world over will be reliant on just one company. As seen with microsoft office, one version cannot open another versions files. I firmly believe that it shouldn’t matter what system you use, what software you use but the actual file format. Files be they photos or documents or whatever should be able to be opened on ALL systems using whatever is the personal preference of the user or company.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a user rebellion against these locked in, walled systems by those who know how computers work and can build cross platform systems of their own, possibly using older devices if new ones become to locked. But there again, if they have the knowledge then they will just unlock them and make them their own. The general public on the other hand will just keep their eyes shut, let the Apples and Googles get away with it and live in an an extremely restricted world where they don’t benefit from having a system that is best suited to them. However, some of the ideas/products being produced by Apple, Google and Microsoft actually seem really good, the xbox one for example, I really like the idea behind it but is flawed. The idea of being able to plug your phone into your car is fantastic idea, in this case there shouldn’t be a system in the car but what appears on the screen of your phone should be what is shown on the bigger car screen. This would mean that no car manufacture restricts you has what system is used (back to the locked in crap again). It also means that the user can use their favourite apps.