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

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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.

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

Forcehawk

The Tablet Lacks With Wi-Fi And Other Annoyance

A couple of months back I bought myself a ASUS 10 inch tablet. Why you may ask that one and not another brand, first the price was right. Second, the colour and performance looked promising in the shop, the option to add extra memory with a sd card slot and importantly, there were no Microsoft apps pre installed on it.

So how as it measured up?

Pretty well, but not perfect though. WIFI on this tablet and being able to hold it is not brilliant but better than the Nexus 7. It seems to have got better and I cann’t really remember what happen. Another problem also has occurred, not much recently but it can get quite bad. This problem seems to take place mostly when do stuff. The whole thing freezes, the screen goes white with one or two lines across but again this seems to have not happened for a couple of weeks until the other day and it was accompanied by a buzzing sound.

Has with my other Android devices I have disabled a few apps that I don’t use as well as deleting some which came with the tablet. What I really want is to be able to delete apps ready installed so that I can free up memory and also makes sure that they don’t start up and run in the back ground as with a few Samsung apps on the s5. I am working on this problem but think it should be a requirement for OEMs to make all apps that come with a device to be removable.

The note pad that comes with the device is actually pretty good although writing with the stylus pen isn’t has good as it should be. I have recently been working away and being able to write notes on this in the field and the hotel room for later consultation  is handy. I don’t take photos with the device but there again I don’t want to look like one of those knobs that goes round with a tablet using it like a camera. Also while I was away and at home as well, it is just the right size for reading books and magazines. What is really missing for tablets is libre office, this would make tablets truly useful to those who need something to write stuff while they are away. Maybe this is one reason why tablet sales have started to fall.

I would recommend this device but I think it can be greatly improved. I will likely have to review it again once I have checked out other stuff but it is more of a try it when you need it thing as I am somewhat busy right now. When I have the money I may look at the ubuntu tablet because from what I can see, it is more off what a tablet should be. Runs linux so that libre office can be installed and view photos, etc. we will see. Maybe to get this I could get a cheap tablet and install ubuntu touch on that.

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

 

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

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

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.

Forcehawk

Spring Clean That Phone

I take it that most people who read this own a smart phone and I suspect that many just add stuff  such as apps and themes, etc and don’t bother or even think to have the occasional clear out or tidy up. Personally I have only had android so that is what I only write about.Its the system I prefer because its supposed to be open source but I have my doubts sometimes. I find the idea that I can customise it to how I want in feel and look. I am currently very happy with its looks (Aviate to thank for this). But the app situation was just plain stupid, not only in number but what I had, for some reason I had 2 or in some cases more that do the same thing. The aim of my weekend project was functionality while keeping apps to a minimum. My current aim is to only have apps that make my life easier.

The first part of this project was to decide the functions that I actually wanted. Then, then which apps to carry out those functions or tasks including those that allow me to integrate with things such as chromecast and watch. The second bit was simple, delete any data such as in the browser (in my case firefox). Next, was to go through and disable apps I don’t use but cann’t delete until I get around to rooting the phone (chrome browser, g+, and others for example).

Now the good bit, App removal. At this point I need to point out that even though the apps will no longer be on the phone they are still available in the account back up app locker so if you find that you cann’t be without or want them back you can still reinstall them later if you decide you want. If its an app that you paid for then you will not be charged again if you reinstall them because they are held on record as having been paid for.Its no good just deleting an app for the hell of it but if you don’t use it any more or found a better one that has the functionality and customization that you wanted, then it goes, you have to be strict with yourself. I found that there were a number of duplicates such as 3 car home screens and 2 of these went. However, I soon removed the last one when I realised I didn’t use that one much either, I prefer to go straight to the app that I want to use. Once I had finished I had what I wanted, a decent set of apps that I can find and use easier.If you use Aviate then you have the collections, these basically keep certain type such as travel or now watch. The past week as seen an up date which allows you to have custom collections, first thing I did was add one for my watch apps. While I was at it I added a couple of others such as Costa coffee which replaces the card, hopefully (one less thing to carry). I don’t have or intend to add bank or paypal until I am confident with the security but there again, I don’t have need to have them. Occasionally I find the need to go through and clear data for certain apps to stop the phones memory getting full of junk, etc. Last but not least, install a file manger which allows any folders made and used by apps to be deleted.

Forcehawk