Phones, phones, phones

Phones.

I’m intrigued by all the new phones that swamp the world. Nearly every day there’s a new phone coming out, or so it seems.

phones
Phones

This is a world of communication. Being connected has become part of our life. Some people take it to extremes by being connected 24 hours every day. Modern smartphones, whether you’re into Apple, Android, Windows, Tizen, the unfortunately (officially) deceased Ubuntu phone or any other platform, give you that option.

A new phone.

I wonder how many new phones a person needs. With so many new phones coming out every week, I wonder if the manufacturers can actually make a profit from all their new designs, options, gadgets and doo-dahs.

Don’t get me wrong: I couldn’t care less if they do make a profit; they’re rich enough as it is. I just wonder what the advantage would be to have a new phone every, let’s say, two months, just because the bezel is a little more rounded, the display is 0.2″ bigger or the camera is a bit better.

Are there people who change phones almost as often as their socks? Or even more often? (Eeuw?)

Consumerism.

Piggy bankThat’s probably the thing. The media are pushing people’s buttons to get the latest and greatest. Constantly. Get a new this and that or you won’t be happy. Get the new iPhone or your friends will laugh at you. Make sure you have the latest wearable gear or you look silly. Be hip, hop, modern, and most of all: spend your money. Spending money makes happy. (Okay, mostly that means happiness for the people who get your money but that’s beside the point.)

Freedom.

Our world seems to hand us freedom. The freedom to go where we want, when we want, and stay connected to all our Facebook friends (how many of them have you actually met?), connected to Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and what not. And the world knows where you are, when you’re there and probably even why. Big data rules, and big data is watching you.

When’s the last time you went out for a walk, leaving your phone at home?

 

A new phone.

I got a new phone last week. An Asus Zenphone 3. Yes, I stepped off the Samsung train for a change. Samsung has really nice phones but they also have really nice price tags.

I had my eye on the Zenphone for a while already. Read about it somewhere, liked the specifications and the way it was shown by Asus.

I also read lots of reviews. Many of them told me it’s a great phone and so I waited for it to become available in the Netherlands. I could have ordered one online from somewhere and hope for the best but for such amounts of money I tend to be a bit careful. If something’s wrong with the device and the seller whose name I can’t pronounce lives in a place I’ve never heard of, that’s enough for me to be patient.

Last week was the day I discovered the phone to be available. Again I went out to read the latest reviews. What struck me was that many of them sing and dance about the Zenfone 3 but there is only one common gripe: the bloatware, the odd Zen UI launcher and the many notifications.

Bugger all that. I ordered the phone. I have it here. It’s really nice, fast, and the screen is definitely nice. The resolution is less than that of the Samsung Note 4 I had before but I don’t notice that at all.

On to the bloatware. I have disabled everything I don’t need. That took me several hours because on a new phone there’s a lot of new stuff and it’s not exactly sure what you need and what not. That took care of that.

On the Zen UI launcher. I don’t use it. Since a long time I moved to Smart Launcher 3 and that’s perfect for me. There are lots of launchers available for Android; there has to be something you like if you don’t like Zen-UI. I had a look at Zen-UI and it looks a lot like regular Android to me but I didn’t investigate a lot. If you ignore a phone simply because of the default launcher you’re going to miss out on a lot of good devices.

Finally: the notifications. The Zenfone 3 comes with a nice built-in option to set which app can push notifications and which can’t. People who whine about the notifications should first really get to know the phone. I have no problems with the info on the screen; it shows what I want, when I want.

Another nice thing on the Zenfone that no one has mentioned in the reviews I read is the option to prevent specific apps from starting at boot time. That saves boot time and memory. I have the 4GB/64GB version so memory isn’t a big problem but the option’s there and it’s great.

All in all I’m really happy with the phone. I’m not going to list all the specs, you can find that online everywhere, like on the Asus site. Why it’s called a mid-range phone is a riddle to me but my demands on phones aren’t high. I don’t spend hours playing the heaviest games on my phone. I think the Zenfone would do well in that area but I have no inclination to find out because I’m a lost case with games.

Make it easy on yourself.

Yesterday I dropped a bank order into the mailbox of my bank so something would be paid.

acceptgiro

On the lid was a large sticker: Make it easy on yourself! It continued telling me and the rest of the world that I could use their mobile app or the website to pay stuff. I know that. I have it and I use it at times.

But… is that making it easy on myself? I had to be there so all I needed to do was sign a piece of paper and put it in their box. According to the sticker it’s easier to open the app, log in to the app, type in all the information that’s already on the paper, verify that using my bank card and a special card reading device to verify that I am me using my own phone. All that goes for the website as well.

The meaning is of course to make it easier on them. Everything you do, they don’t have to.

Leave it to the car

Many people do not want a self driving car. This is of course the human factor where the human wants to be in control of the machine.

self-driving-car

The ironic part in this is that the humans want power steering, power windows and more power options to the car so they don’t have to expend their own power. Leave that to the car. The humans also wants GPS navigation so they don’t have to look at maps and use their own brain power. Leave that to the car. Humans love the automatic wind shield wipers so they don’t have to switch them on themselves. Same goes for automatic lights coming on. Leave all that to the car. Or how about the car that won’t start when it detects you’ve had a few too many? Not even mentioning the people who love their stick shift, where the car tells them when to use it to be as fuel efficient as possible. Why not leave that to the car?

The latest nice thing I heard of is Lane Assist, where the humans don’t have to watch where they’re going in their car. The car will warn them if they get out of their lane. Easy. Leave that to the car. Of course you may hear the argument that this is a useful feature to keep you on the right track when you’re tired. Well, if you’re tired you should not be driving a car in the first place!

And still the humans think they are in control of their car.

Just leave it to the car…

Technology WTF

rocking chair-A while ago I was looking at configuration stuff for Citrix because somehow the ICA client in the browser stopped passing through my login credentials to the Citrix server. (I didn’t find them by the way.)

During the search did I stumble upon this funny bit which I thought was worth sharing.

I’ve got a production app that runs under Citrix.

Due to various problems, a two-hour batch job that the app runs
has tb initiated manually in the wee hours of the morning instead
of being run by a simple .CMD file that starts the Access app in
a “Overnight Batch” mode.

Problem is that the Citrix admins enforce a 40-or-so-minute
timeout on inactive sessions – and the session performing the
batch job in question looks inactive to Citrix.

So if I VPN/RemoteDesktop in, open up the Citrix-deployed app,
kick off the process and then just go back to sleep; the Citrix
timeout kicks in, the whole session gets flushed, and the batch
job never finishes what it has to do.

Consequently I have to wake up and hit “Enter” every 30 minutes
or so.

I was thinking that maybe I could write a little MS Access app tb
run on the same PC than I’m VPN/RemoteDesktopping into that would
just keep looping and send a MouseOver or a KeyDown or something
to the Citrix window in time to avoid the inactivity timeout and
I could go back to getting a decent night’s sleep.

I know from SendKeys(), but don’t have a clue on how to find that
Citrix sesh’s window and push the keystroke or whatever into it.

Can anybody offer up a clue?

A kind person offered a wonderful, technologically approved solution:

There was a hilarious DailyTWF.com posting on this topic.   The manager brought in a
electrically operated baby’s rocking chair and put the optical mouse in it.  And they
let it run 24×7.

😀

Elon Musk is scared of killer robots

I see the wonder in your virtual eye. What does Elon Musk and Killer Robots have to do with a weird Pagan?

The origin of this is at this Engadget page. Read it if you can and want. I post it here because I agree with him.

Science is advancing. Computers are becoming faster and ‘smarter’. Smart as in Artificial Intelligence. Remember the Terminator films? That’s where we seem to be heading. Machines are already stronger than we are, and faster.

For instance the Darpa Cheetah Robot:

Why on earth are we trying to invent something that’s smarter than we are? Because we can? There’s a line between what we can and what we should do. We can blow up the world as well and so far no one’s done it because we can. When I was younger I was fascinated by robots. Still am. But only the kind that’s helpful, doing the dangerous things that can kill people. Not the kind that may get enough awareness to understand that the robot community is much smarter than those silly humans with their pollution and stupid wars, and therefore these humans should be eradicated.

Lots of people are afraid of something super-intelligent comes from outer space to take over the world. Tell me, what’s the difference between those creatures and the ones we’re trying to build ourselves?

Android and its ROMs

Yes, ROMs. Not Romulans, as this is not Star Trek. Alas.

A while ago I got an Android update on my smartphone. It was for Android 4.4.2. I installed it and I was not a happy camper: suddenly only Google’s own apps could manipulate the SD card! The trick would be to ROOT the phone (breaking it open, in a way, to give me all the permissions again). It was quite an experience.

How to root your phone: first you need a Recovery Rom. Best known are CWM (ClockWork Mod) and TWRP (no idea, I didn’t use this one).

I used Philz Touch CWM rom. Note: find the version that works for your phone. Mine was N7100. Make sure you pick the right one. Please use Google or Bing or so to locate this file, there are many versions. Search for “Philz Touch recovery tar md5“. You will also need a Windows-program called Odin. This is what you need to put the recovery rom on your phone. The last one I know of is Odin3 3.09.

Online you can find information how to do this, but the quick rundown is: run Odin. Point the ‘AP‘ location to the tar.md5 file with Philz Touch Recover. Put your phone in DOWNLOAD mode. Connect USB cable. Wait for Odin to recognise the phone. Press start. Wait until Odin reports Success.

Once you did that you can locate a ROM you want to put on the phone. The one I finally had success with was the TigraRom v4. This one runs Android 4.3, is rooted and gave me back read/write access to the SD card. This is the one I’m currently running. To install a new ROM, first backup your stuff. Then make sure you’ve backed up your stuff. Find the ROM that works for your phone. Really, read that again. Download it and put the ZIPfile on your phone or on the SD Card. Boot your phone into Recovery mode (usually Volume-up and Power, but my phone also needed the Home button pressed so look that up for your phone). You’ll be put into Philz Touch Recovery.

Start sweating: select Wipe Data/Factory reset and confirm you want to do this. return to this menu (is easy). Select ADVANCED and select Wipe Dalvik Cache. Confirm.

Then select ‘Install Zip’.  Locate the zipfile on your device and make it so. This is where the magic happens: the new ROM is loaded onto your phone. After that: reboot system now. That’s all there is to it. After that it’s up to you to find if the ROM works for you. I found Tigra to work after 8 or 9 disappointments. Flashing a ROM gets easy after a while, trust me. 😉

Qwerky

Before you wonder what this is: it’s a keyboard. Yes, I know it looks like a typewriter. That’s the beauty of it. It’s a ‘Qwerkywriter’, crowdfunded via Kickstarter. This keyboard can connect to devices via USB and BlueTooth. And I ordered one by pitching in on the Kickstarter. I find this an amazing thing to look at. It breathes steampunk and back to basics typing.

Love it.

I have no clue about Linux so I have to stick with Windows.

 

 

Tux. The Linux mascotte.

 

I saw this a while ago:

“I have no clue about Linux so I have to stick with Windows.”

No, you don’t. Why not? The short version: get a clue about Linux. Of course, this is very short. Allow me to dispel a few myths about Linux.

Linux is difficult. You have to be a tech geek who can type in all those things like “ls -1 | grep *#@) | awk -F\ ‘{print $5}’ > /dev/null” and understand what it means.

Yes, absolutely true some 15 years ago. Back then you needed something like that. Today however you pop a CD or DVD in your computer (or a bootable USB stick), boot from it and you’re presented with something like:

(You can click the image for a larger version.) For ease of use I keep referring to Ubuntu as that is what I use, but the same thing happens for Fedora, Mint and a lot of other versions of Linux.

Yes, you can actually “Try” the system. Click Try Ubuntu (yes, really, just click, not type in some complicated command!) and a complete Linux system will load. And the best part: it won’t affect anything on your computer. Of course it will be slower than from a hard disk – it runs from CD/DVD.

After booting the disc, you can see something like this:

Can?” Yes. Linux offers you several interfaces, you can use whichever you like best. Up here is the new GNOME interface showing some of the applications that are installed. Have we typed in anything like “ls -1 | grep *#@) | awk -F\ ‘{print $5}’ > /dev/null” yet?

But nothing runs in Linux! I need my almost-official version of MS Office 2012 that someone else bought, and Firefox, and MS-outlook!

There is a HOST of software available for Linux. If you like Firefox, you can run Firefox in Linux. Or Google Chrome, or a few others. If you insist on Internet explorer… tough. That won’t run in Linux. But then, we already determined that nothing runs in Linux.

For MS Office, you can go to LibreOffice (also runs in Windows and on Mac OS). It’s free and works pretty well with MS Office documents. The same goes for OpenOffice. Or the AbiWord word processor and the Gnumeric spreadsheet.

To compete with Outlook we have Evolution, Kmail, Balsa, Aethera, Claws Mail or Sylpheed. And a bunch of others, but I won’t bore you with endless lists of software. Especially Evolution will feel a lot like your home on the Outlook range. On LINUXRSP you can find an extensive list of software with Linux equivalents for Microsoft products.

There are no games for Linux. Well, not everything for windows exists in Linux, indeed. But there is http://store.steampowered.com/browse/linux/ and the Linux Game DataBase, to start with.

But my anti virus software won’t run in Linux. True. I have to disappoint you there. The sad fact remains that for every 10,000 virusses in Windows there probably is 1 for Linux. I admit that Linux still has a long way to go here.

Here is another screenshot from a Linux machine. Still no ls, grep, awk or other gobbledigook in sight. Sorry.

If you want to know more about the core of Linux, have a look at http://www.linux.org. Otherwise you can just grab one of the many free CD- or DVD-images, boot from it and play around with it a little without (or before) installing it.

And so it happened.

I got a new laptop last year September. It contained windows 8. Not the easiest thing to get around in when you’re used to Linux and already managed moderate success with windows 7. Slightly annoying.

Then came windows 8.1. Same thing as above, only more annoying as I still had to look up via Google how to do certain things. Windows 8.1 is probably fabulous, but not very intuitive for me.

Well, I can always install a Linux virtual machine on it, so that is then easier. After installing Ubuntu 13.10 I noticed that it works. Almost reasonably. The network connect was quite unstable, and the VM wasn’t fast (uhm, on a 12GB RAM, quadcore 2.6 GHZ processor, running on an SSD). Annoying.

I set up Linux as dual boot with windows 8.1. The set up worked, getting to it didn’t. Something in Windows 8x prevented me from seeing a boot menu; even with EasyBCD there was no fun to be had. Annoying. Removed the Linux partition and set that to NTFS again. Still not happy with the wobblies of Windows 8 and lacking something decent in the Linux sphere. Alas, I need that windows thing to update my GPS and the programmable remote.

I tried to load an existing VM on VirtualBox on Windows 8. The VM contains Win XP. That somehow broke VirtualBox, it didn’t load well any more, I couldn’t run the Ubuntu VM either. Even a reinstall did not do the trick.

Went out on a limb and located iATKml. A nice MacOS image ready to install in VirtualBox. Works fine on my main Linux box. Downloaded and installed the software for the remote and the GPS. Works. Oh, wow. And I don’t need to look up via Google how to do things with it. I see why people like Mac OS.

I wiped windows 8.1 from the laptop, everything, the whole bit. Installed Gnome Ubuntu 13.10 on it, it runs super fast. Boots in 15 seconds. (Real boot, everything loaded and ready to log in, not like Windows 8x that shows you a login screen after 15 seconds and then continues to load everything which is obvious after logging in.)
I created a new virtual MacOS machine on the laptop through iATKml (ml stands for Mountain Lion, the latest). Works.
Hah, wait, let’s break Virtual Box and feed it the WinXP VM (which runs fine on the Linux machine). Works. Fast.

It took a fair number of months but now I have a laptop that is fast, that I can use with VMs and find my way in.

I’m convinced many people love Windows 8. Good for them.