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.

Forcehawk

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.

Forcehawk

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.

Forcehawk

 

Two things I learnt today

This post is more for my benefit than any ones but you may learn.

The first thing I learnt was that the Ubuntu install will transfer or keep the home folder of the previous version that you are replacing.

The second thing that I found was after I tried to open a pdf that I had transferred to my laptop using kdekennet had some issues.  It appears that the transfer messed up the file somewhere along the line which basically made it unreadable.

Dealing with the first, I kept that snippet of information ready for Kubuntu 15.10 to rear its head. When it came to the time to upgrade I started of with a system upgrade but this went wrong, badly. All was going well until the install stopped…no obvious reason. I did some checking and a reboot, I found that the system had a kernel panic and the way I could get to my stuff was to select an earlier kernel and boot up as normal. Yes, I should have backed up before but I was not paying attention and went head long into the update like a crazed maniac. Don’t do this, think before you do something important. In the end I downloaded the new release and totally reinstalled the system, I made the choice of not having a separate home partition for the simple reason that I have decide that I don’t really need to. i have instead decided to get a second external harddrive and keep my photos and music and that and have it permanently connected. Back up will be the drive I have now and hopefully in the near future a home server that is not connected to the outside web.

With the second issue, I found the solution to transferring PDF to android devices to be easier with Airdroid which I think I have mentioned before. This solution though, does not work very easy at all when transferring music. To do this it is best to connect the phone via a usb cable. I am sure that the PDF transfer was affected when I sent it to the laptop via the bluetooth connection. The KDE connect thing though is really useful for control music and using the phone as a touch pad thingy and does work well for transferring photographs

Forcehawk

Moving Forward With Frustration

There is moving forward and then there is moving forward.  By that I  mean being handed new tech and having no say or having to wait for others do the up dates when they feel that the time is right.  I have been wanting to try new stuff with ideas on how I want my systems to be or look like. An example of this is sitting and reading about kde 5 or plasma but it not being  available for mint kde.  Apparently it is felt that it is not and its buggy. I thought linux was about choice!  I  checked the forums for help or any info and all I found was unhelpful peolle saying wait and not actually making suggestions on how to upgrade, at least they should either answer the question with suggestions or just keep quiet.  Just bias towards control of the user through bias opinion, I expect this from Apple and Microsoft NOT a Linux distro! I saw this kind if thing with PClinuxOS and stopped using it.

Further research pointed to Kubuntu,  I try this awhile ago and liked it so once again I downloaded it,  I  can always add and take stuff away. I tried the live dvd and it was fast. I  do have a feeling that there is going to be restrictions on what I can download from the repositories so to move forward further I am  working on terminal skills to download from source so no waiting for someone else.  This could also help in the quest to gain control of my android devices, root and  custom ROMs may well give the freedom to get security updates faster than the unreliable normal sources.

Thanks to todays rain I have installed Kubuntu with plasma and the main issues have been Samba and email, acually, I forgot I had to get a special password from gmail to use thunderbird with it. Not keen on Kmail.

Wtach this space for a possible samba solution, I think I am close!

Forcehawk

Streaming Woes

After a much to long break in paying attention to this blogs I feel I must comment on a number of things from the tech world and some stuff that I have been doing between doing things which as kept me away. I am so behind!

I feel first that I need to say something about music seeing as though music is very dear to my heart. Over the past few months there as been coverage on this subject,  but what about the true feeling from the music listener/buyer?

We have recently seen the addition of Tidal and now Apple music,  neither I really care for,  especially Applemusic. We are starting to see artists pull their music from all but one. I  personally wouldn’t be some backlash from the listening public against artists who insist on making their music available on only one site. No,  they won’t stop listening but two things could happen. The first could be that the buying public will once again buy the download, cd or indeed vinyl version thus meaning the artist only gets paid once. Or,  they may once again turn to illegal downloads which will be very paid.

Why the back lash? My view is that each person likes different bands or individual artist and having to pay for 2 or more streams will get expensive and if they’re not on brilliant wages (most people) will seek their listening else where!

There is also another fundamental problem with streaming, phone data.  We seem to be seeing an end to unlimited data on mobile networks and streaming music eats alot of your data allowance so unless you have deep pockets or only stream on wifi then you ain’t going to listen to alot of music.

Since I started writting this a couple of weeks ago Spotify as introduced a new policy which sucks so I have cancelled my membership and gone with google play, I will try this for a couple of months before I make my final decision. I am really not sure at the moment although streaming does enable the streaming of albums that i don’t have yet.

I  would be interested in your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

Fixing that Stale Tech Feeling

Over the past couple of months I have not been posting much or doing much in general on the tech side of things. I guess this has been due to a number of factors including being busy at work, lack of motivation and being very tired. However, I guess another reason could be that things got somewhat stale and I was getting to lazy in that I wasn’t changing anything. Well, some vacation time as seen a resurgence in my interest and a bit of time to do some thinking. Plus, the announcement of the new pebble-time. I am really looking forward to the new pebble and actually backed it. This is the first time I have actually backed something on kickstarter and now know it will not be the last either.

So what I have I changed?

My first point of call is my pebble, I had been having alot of problems with battery drain after an update, I tried everything before resorting to removing all of the apps and stopping some of the apps on the phone. The battery life was back to what it was. I reinstalled my main apps but setting them up better than before. I checked the user guide for more info and found one or two additions within these with more information these included the default functions of the watch. This meant that Awear was more or less redundant, so I left it off. As it turned out, it is likely that this was the culprit for the battery drain! It kept going wrong, crashing, etc . So I completely removed it. I have a feeling that it hadn’t been updated for quite sometime as well. The only thing that I missed was the SMS function. While the default function on the watch app offers pretty much basic functions it doesn’t offer what I was truly after. My own custom replies which I found useful in Awear and one of the main reasons I tried hanging on to it. Some searching and I found pebble communicator. This app requires a phone app as well but it offers exactly what I was looking for, including being able to reply from the app! The only thing missing now is the ability to delete emails from the watch.

Next I have moved on to my S5, I had thinking for sometime that I had this thing and not using it to its fullest. I was also getting hacked of with Aviate, despite being one of the best launchers/home screens the Yahoo rot was leaking into it. Various things were becoming to integrated with yahoo and seeing as though Yahoo is in bed with Microsoft I was getting closer and closer to ditching it. The final straw was finding constant alerts for cricket and other sporting events which I hadn’t asked for and no way to turn them off, the problem was yahoo! So I did some more searching and messing about and ended up with Buzz, while a fresh experience, I am really getting to enjoy my phone again and its much more customizable with no forced crap from yahoo, etc. The battery seems to last a little more on some occasions depending on usage. Other changes are being tested which seem okay but I want to make sure I am happy with them!

The tablet has also under gone changes, I had been getting reports that the UI was not responding and the device was being slow (an under statement) and not being what it was. So I have installed a new launcher which seems to be faster but is also under going trials (as in, does it work as I expect). A few of the apps have also been removed because I realised there is no point in having ones I don’t use. I am thinking of ways to get more out of this device as well.

The roku 3 is also working nicely and I will write up a separate post for that!

Expect more in the coming few weeks as I go through stuff.

Forcehawk

What Will 2015 Bring?

Well, CES has happened and a few nice things were seen on the TV and since the French attacks and a week doesn’t go by without a report of online security breaches 2015 promises to be a year when tech advancements and cyper security may bring improvements. Although I am not to sure. Why? Alot of new tech that has been recently revealed will be too expensive for the majority of the population and may not make it. When it comes to cyper security most people don’t have a clue what to do, don’t care or have been brain washed to think everything should be scanned by the governments in the lie of safety.

On Line Security.

Recent calls by the UK prime minister for encryption to be banned, heavily restricted or at least for companies to provide back doors keys to the spooks has my concerns. Everyone has a right to on line privacy but yes you need to monitor communications of the suspected terrorists but at what cost? If he gets his way, it will not stop terrorists but just make their life more difficult because they will just find new ways of doing what they do. Giving back door keys to those that spy on us may also provide access to company and private accounts and computer system to those that wish to do harm. The problem will never be resolved partly due to lack of skilled security people and also lack of deterrents. One of my main concerns with encryption being restricted and back door keys being handed over is that it will compromise internet banking, online shopping and other important uses of it. Internet security on financial matters will be compromised and will likely push back online shopping, banking, etc back to where it was 10 years ago!

Cars

I don’t see the driverless cars making much of an impact this year or next for that matter. This is mostly due to safety concerns as well as people not trusting the technology. Several good pieces of car tech was seen at CES but it will possibly not appear or become mainstream due to cost. Personally I would like to see some form of fitting that allows someone smart phone to be connected to the car the for music, hands free calls, navigation,etc.

Linux

Will not dominate the desktop once again!

Internet of Things

I think this may take on but only if the tools to do come down in price. I also only think that it will work if people are able to be free to use gadgets of their choice and not restricted to one company (I’m looking at Apple here). The companies off the world need to work together in some way to allow this to happen although I see very little point in having a fridge connected to the internet!

Smart phones, watches and other wearables.

In this section I predict that there will not be much more growth in smart phones, those you want one will likely have one by now. I would not be surprised if modular phones and watches make an appearance this year. We will also likely see the apple watch come on the market but it will be restricted to Apple lovers and those with the money to buy one as I expect it will be expensive. I also expect more smart watches to come on to the market but in the end, I expect those that make it will be watches that can be connected to any system phone and not restricted to say, just apple or android. Pebble is likely to be a winner here. Watches with their own sim card may also make some head way but who wants to look a idiot talking to their wrist? Google glass and the like? while of some use will stay in the back waters and possibly forgotten, google glass is already seeing changes and unless a new model or other factor happens will die a death.

Music

The changes in the way that people buy and listen to music will continue to change. The latest is hi-re music files but these and the stuff to play on them on are expensive. In my opinion, to expensive to make a difference because people either cann’t afford them or don’t care enough to pay the money (this is a majority of people). Downloads will likely continue to decline and vinyl will increase in sales again. On line streaming will continue to grow but people need to pay for it and not expect it for free.

Forcehawk

2014, From My Point of View

As I look back over the past year I have noticed much, both in how I interacted with tech/linux and how others have. I have noticed that there have been some changes by those who care and nothing by those who just cann’t be bothered.

I don’t know if its me but the internet has got less interesting to myself, I seem to be finding less that is new. By this, I am referring to the lack of things that are new or exciting and everything seems to be not much different. This saddens me because there is potential for technology to be advanced for the better with individuals/users being able to adapt their stuff for their own personal situations. I do however, think that those who would do this are finding it difficult to find the time. I am also noticing that the big corporations seem to be locking their users into their systems much more. Not just Apple but Google as well. Google seem to be making it more difficult for people to have things how they want (for example the gmail app settings). I was however pleasantly surprised by the antics of Microsoft. They have not only released Android apps which give some features not otherwise available but they have open sourced things like .NET. It will be interesting what they do over the next 12 months.

On a personal point I have been having fun with my pebble watch and trying to get it and my phone set up to make my life easier with automation and other things. My Nexus 7 seems to have slowed somewhat but I will hopefully get that fixed over the next week or so after some research on how to fix it. I can currently see the potential of several projects that I have in mind but these take time in research and to set up but the results should be pleasing.

Forcehawk

Gamers Get Hit!

You may have noticed all the reports of Playstation and Xbox live games being hit over Christmas. I won’t go over it again because it has been reported to death. But the companies need to think not why? but how did they manage to cause the chaos?

Millions of people, both older and experienced users and new ones who got their new toys over Christmas were affected and are somewhat upset. Not me, I don’t game but I can see why, and the whole thing as highlighted something which needs attending to. Companies seem to be more interested in developing new stuff but they have sadly neglected something more important than anything and its security. The whole attack as highlighted this and someone is going to be in deep trouble. What both companies need to do is fix their security before all else other wise new start ups are going to get a mass influx of interest because the older companies are letting their users down.

All I can say is good that this as happened as it as highlighted something that needs fixing. Computer security needs fixing and NOW, forget all the other stuff… get this FIXED Sony, Microsoft and all you other big companies!

Forcehawk