New Computer Build

Windows_logo_and_wordmark_-_2012.svgMy trusty little Intel Atom based desktop died a couple weeks ago.  This was a an Ubuntu based system was very inexpensive and yet functional.  I replaced it with a new modern Dell.  Its $600 price tag was double what my Ubuntu based Atom board costs, and came with Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. I  need to have a functional Windows system these days, unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to configure the system as a dual booter. So for now I’m stuck in the Windows 8 ecology.  I can’t say that I’m impressed with Windows 8 the apps and the convoluted way one must do things,  but the whole Idea of an operating is to run the programs we need to use.

I’ve been downloading and configuring the different program and applications I will need and want to use. I find it kinda surprising how short my list is of essential programs that I have installed.

 Google Chrome

I have been using Chrome since the beggining.  What is pretty kewl is that the apps follow the user in a new installation, as well as ones favorites and book marks.  Eventually I’ll install Firefox but for now Chrome is good enough to do what needs to be done.  The nice thing about Chrome though is that the apps I’ve been using automatically got installed.  Some of these Apps are Tweetdeck and Barcode reader

Thunderbird

Thunderbird is the default email reader for most people these days.  I’m amazed at how fast it is to set up and configure. The program prompts the user for email addresses passwords and IMAP or  POP3.  for most configuration login and mail download is automagilcly done.  Those who are still checking their email via a web brouser might reconcider and check out Thunderbird.

 Olympus Viewer 3

Linux and Windows Vista had pretty good import utilities.  Windows 8 though calls up an app when you plug in a camera into the USB port. The problem with Windows 8 apps is that they don’t use the desktop, so practical multitasking is not accessible.   I’ve previously avoided OEM supplied downloaders, and they were not available for Linux based systems anyway. The new Viewer 3 does a pretty good job and allows some touch up editing.  The program uploads and organizes images just fine. While I installed mine from the supplied CD, it is available online from the Olympus site and I suspect it might work from any camera or flash media.

Arduino

I have a couple of Arduino devices, including the Arduino Mega 2560. The new versions of Arduino Programmer.have a real Windows install routine The Arduino is a great development tool for students and professionals alike.  Arduino is an inexpensive and easy way to develop both software and hardware solutions to control or measure or interface with just about anything.

LibreOffice

I don’t have a preference or do I even know what the differences are between OpenOffice.Org and LibreOffice. As far as I am concerned they are pretty much equivilent.  Libre Office is now at version 4.0 and is my gotto for any document creation and editing.  A great Office suite and more than adequate for anything I’m likely to need at my home office.

Microsoft Online Office 365

 This is both a cloud and an application suite.  We moved to this at the office and it came with 5 installations per user so I was able to install everything at home on my desktop.  Suite has a bunch of parts, all which tends to encourage collaboration. The online stuff is hosted by Sharepoint.and is where all the collaboration magic is going to happen.Outlook is available with all of its normal parts, such as tasks and calendars.  Also available are messaging and a newsgroup type functions, blogs and website building tools.   Outlook is pretty good and is pretty much full function the rest of the Office applications is pretty much a neutered version of the real thing.  but is capable of of opening and creating  most documents.

Office 2013 comes to the package and is quickly installed from on line.   Microsofts cloud storage application. Skydrive Pro, the cloud storage app and resoursource is what ties the desktop apps with the online cloud apps. As long as one stores and accesses the Skydrive everything is synced.

This is all rent software and the desktop stuff only runs on Windows 8 or newer OS or Apple OS10 10.3  and better is supported. Vista and XP users are out of luck,  . While my installation is a corporate version . There is a home edition available.  With a licence for up to 5 machines it might not be a bad deal for some home offices with multiple machines and users.

Python 3.3 and 2.7

Python is a programming language. Its today’s BASIC. The nice part about python is that it is cross platform, and it is an interpretive language no compiler required. Its great for writing scripts and even serves as a self documenting calculator I mostly use 2.x because the syntax is a little different for 3.x .  Its a great install for someone who wishes to learn objective orientated programming or create some quick and dirty utilities.

Some stuff I haven’t installed yet but I know I will is Firefox. and Adobe Reader. While some might claim the PC is dead there is still a lot that can be done on a  home desktop. If it is a Windows machine.

 

Google Cleaning House.

Google is discontinuing their reader service on June 1st.  Google seems to do this a lot, offer a service and get a lot of people to use it then take it away. Most of the ideas are an attempt to get people to  work and stay while in their environment.  The problem is Google wants us to use their tools so that they can mine mine data from us. Unfortunatly, often  what they give they take away, Remember Blogger?    A creation of Pyra Labs,Blogger introduced both the blogger and reader to the art and science of blogging, It was free, and all that was required was a host.  which in many cases was provided by our ISPs When Google bought out Pyra Labs. they introduced free hosting., although bloggers were allowed to self host. In other words  to use a host of their own choosing.  This allowed one to use a commercial Web host. This no only allowed users to maintain ownership of their content, but to avoid Google Censorship. Now Google wasn’t all that dictatorial at least in most cases. But any system which responds to complaints subjective decisions as well as automated processes will make bad decisions.    Self Hosting Blogger was the best of both world.  Until Google insisted that we should use their hosting.  This left bloggers with a choice abandon years of work or move their blog to  Google servers.  I left mine on my leased servers , but with out ability to modify, add new comments.   One  unintended side-affect was the loss trust in Google. The user is aware  what Google gives Google can take away.  All this while Google is trying to pull us into  the collaboration in the the clouds scheme.  The grand plan to pull us in and keep us in a Google environment.

There have been a few attempts by Google to build an all inclusive environment  Google Wave was pulled away it just as people were learning to understand it. bloggers and heavy internet consumers were using Google reader, so Google is taking it away in June.   . Google drive is supposed to be the end all using the cloud collaboratively, Its been a year of promises yet Google still hasn;t delivered Google Drive for Linux.

Its getting pretty apparent that while Google gives us great things to play with, they can’t be trusted with real tools that will be available in the long run.. Bing is actually looking pretty these days.

 

NBC and Twitter Conspire to Censorship.

Posting the email address Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com cost Tweeter his account.

Guy Adams is pretty upset with NBCs Olympic coverage and the way it is handling the time shifted coverage, and hasn’t been shy about letting the world know.  He holds Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, as the “moronic exec behind the time delay.” And he said Zenkel should be fired. When He posted Zenkel’s publicly known email address NBC complained to Twitter and Twitter cancelled his account.

Adams said in a column for The Independent that Twitter claimed he crossed the line by tweeting out Zenkel’s corporate email address and encouraging his followers to contact the executive directly.

The email address is easily identifiable, common with how thousands of NBC/Univision employees’ email addresses are determined.

Twitter soon suspended Adams’ account, he said. In a story he wrote in The Independent, Adams wrote that after filing an article critical of NBC’s coverage, he checked his Twitter account only to find it had been suspended. When he inquired why, he received the following response: “Your Twitter account has been suspended for posting an individual’s private information such as private email address.”

With that, the account was gone.

And a controversy was born.

Those who object to the heavy handed way that NBC handled this might wawwant to drop an email to. Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com

Pi in the Sky

Rasberry Pi

Rasperry Pi

In England some people have decided to do something about what they feel is a slipping in their computer skills as a nation,  They have been working on a $25.00 solution. The Raspberry Pi.  The boards are slowly being let out to the legions of waiting hackers ( I expect to get mine at around the middle of April. The Raspberry Pi has created a lot of chatter and plans. It will be able to run several OS systems including some pretty robust Linux based systems,  complete with the standard development  tools. Of all the different plans and hacks, the strangest idea may be comming from the folks at The Pirate Bay.

The idea is to set up drones flying over international waters and using the a Raspberry Pi as a portal to route traffic to secret ground based systems.  In a blog posting yesterday The Pirate Bay folks laid out their plans.

With the development of GPS controlled drones, far-reaching cheap radio equipment and tiny new computers like the Raspberry Pi, we’re going to experiment with sending out some small drones that will float some kilometers up in the air. This way our machines will have to be shut down with aeroplanes in order to shut down the system. A real act of war.

We’re just starting so we haven’t figured everything out yet. But we can’t limit ourselves to hosting things just on land anymore. These Low Orbit Server Stations (LOSS) are just the first attempt. With modern radio transmitters we can get over 100Mbps per node up to 50km away. For the proxy system we’re building, that’s more than enough.

But when time comes we will host in all parts of the galaxy, being true to our slogan of being the galaxy’s most resilient system. And all of the parts we’ll use to build thatsystem on will be downloadable.

They aren’t without their critics, and while I  believe the future belong to those who take bold steps, I cant help but wonder what these guys are smoking and what tint of purple haze are they in while they type this stuff.

Just wondering ..

Magic Jack Review

When Hurricane Ike struck here on Galveston Island we lost our phone service. By the time we moved back in we got used to using our cell phones and restoring our landlines had a low priority.  for a while we put our phone service on “vacation hold” but eventually we just realized that the hookup fees and the extra monthlies didn’t worth it and we let it go.

I did miss having a landline, talking on a real phone for long calls is more comfortable, and although we have lots of spare minutes,  unexepected events can add up to extensive cell phone time.  So we decided to give Magic jack a try. At $69 for the first year it seems to be worth a shot.

I ordered it on line and a few days later our new Magic Jack plus arrived.  It contained the Magic Jack Plus dongle a small 110 volt to USB power unit, a short usb extender and an ethernet cable.  Equality picked up a cordless 3 phone set to go with it.

The Magic Jack needs to be connected to a computer to configure and attach a phone number to it.  The Device works with Windows and Mac machines it is not Linux compatable.   Once it is all configured it can be connected directly to a router directly won”t need a computer anymore.

Once the Magic Jack Plus is plugged into the computer the program is automagically installed and started. The user is guided to selecting a phone number or to transfer their existing number. The menus selections have some upsell options, but is pretty easy to navigate anf only takes 10 or 15 minutes. After the Magic Jack + is configured the user has the option of leaving it plugged into the computer, or to connect it up to the network.

The Good

The good news is that the Magic Jack Plus works and it is pretty cheap.   The sound quality is excellent exceeding that of cell phones.   It delivers on what I expected and wanted. Unlike the old Magic Jack a computer doesn’t have to be up and running. As I type this Vonage is and Comcast are advertising their basic services at around $20 to $30 dollars a month  about what the yearly rate is for Magic Jack Plus.

The Bad

Magic Jack isn’t without some issues. If you use it to replace a regular phone line You have more points of failure. If you lose cable or power or a router failure you lose your phone. One might consider putting A phone Modems, Router and Magic Jack on a UPS. These are low power devices

Their built in service includes an service which will pick up the phone after 4 rings.  The answering service announces it is a Magic Jack service. If you wish to use your own answering machine you have to set it to pick up on the 3rd ring.  This doesn’t give much time to answer the phone.  It would be nice if we could have the choice of disabling automatic answering altogether.

The Ugly

It came as no surprise to find that their support is lousy. It is only available via Web Chat. and that it is pretty lousy. The web and forums are full of complaints about their service support.  I had attempted to reclaim my old home phone line. We had abandoned the number 2 years ago, but it still isn’t in use.  The installation accepted my old number, and it reported the number as my ID when I dialed into my cell. I couldn’t call into my phone. I  didn’t know what the problem was and and called support via the chat.  They had me reconfigure reboot and moved me up to whats called a  10% level support and she ran me they ran me through the same procedures.  Finally she gave up, and told me they would refer me to engineering and they would get back to me. I was on chat for about an hour.

After the unsuccessful chats I checked my email before I prepared to leave for the day. I found an email with a time stamp of 6:02am that I received just as I was beginning the support chat telling me that my phone number transfer was unsuccessful.  I went back and picked out another phone number and everything worked properly.  It seems to me that  the support people should have been able to find this out.

Conclusions:

Magic Jack plus delivers a good quality phone line, Once it is up and running there should be little need for any support. Set up and configuration is straightforward, but a user might be in trouble if they are need in need of customer support.  There are some preresiquites to get the Magic Jack working.

  • A Windows or Apple Computer
  • A good Highspeed Internet connection.  To use the system without a computer you will probably need a router with an available ethernet connection.  One can connect through a computer that has a highspeed internet connection, but if the computer goes down there is no phone. Using the computer to make the connection might be a good option for those who have only WiFi service in their homes.
  • A phone. A regular plain old corded phone should work. but the Magic Jack might not be able to power more than one or 2 non powered phones. A regular corded phone requires power to ring the phone.

People who live  or spend time out of the country might find this particularly usefull. One can set it up using a stateside phone number and call abe called without dealing with international rates or calling plans. The unit is very small and can be used with regular headset and mike available anywhere. I am happy with mine because I can use a regular phone and line. I can send or receive a fax if I want to.  Its probably never going to be a real minutes saver on my phone because I get free minutes on my cell service if talking to others on  the same plan.  So I if I call one of the phones in my family with this its going to count toward my minutes.

The bottom line is this thing works and is cheap.

The GoDaddy Boycott Busts, Sort of

Thursday was the scheduled day for the boycott of Go Daddy over SOPA.  Go Daddy has gone from supporting SOPA to pulling support from SOPA  to claiming SOPA and PIPA is a bad idea.  I don’t know how sincere they are but it’s apparrent they were bleeding customers and their trust.

While GoDaddy had previously withdrawn its support for SOPA, until Thursday’s statement, the company had not voiced public disagreement towards the bill,which the House Judiciary Committee had been debating before adjourning for the holiday.

According to Yahoo, about 70,000 domains had already been switched before Thursday’s planned boycott. While these numbers aren’t extremely consequential to a company that hosts 50 million websites worldwide, these withdrawals along with high profile moves from Wikipedia, Cheezburger and image sharing site Imgur seem to have been enough to force GoDaddy’s hand.

Now, I don’t believe for a minute that Go Daddy is genuine in their recant of SOPA, their only regret is that their customer base found out that they have Hollywood’s interest over their customers.  The damage is done, they’ve helped craft the bill and supported it through the committee hearings it really doesn’t matter any more whether they support it or not.   Until we see proof that they will actually fight online censorship.

Go Daddy isn’t the only company that has supported SOPA and PIPA there is News Corp (Foxnews), CBS (C-Net), NBC and Disney. Just about all of the media, We don’t hear much about boycotting them.  Go Daddy struck our ire because we expected them to support their customers and the open internet.

I seriously considered pulling my domain.  I decided to wait. I have 2 domains, and am well paid up until for the next several months. If I were to bail on Go Daddy Thursday, they would still have my money, yet not have to provide any services. This would hardly be punishing them. On the other hand I can’t see renewing my services with them, Later on this summer I will move my sites to Host Gator. I will do so when I have used up my contract, and have the time to ensure that I can move this blog safely.

 

Go Daddy Bites the Hand that Feeds Them

Passing SOPA would be a web owners worst nightmare. Godaddy’s support of it is a stand against its customers,  SOPA and its sister bill, PROTECT IP Act, in the Senate is a bad idea that promises to censor and restrict the web as we know it,  and threatens the very existance of websites like this that don’t have a staff of lawyers and editors to maintain compliance.   It is understandable that if not to be expected that Godaddy has pissed of its customers base.

There has been a tremendous backlash against GoDaddy.

Talk of a Go Daddy boycott began yesterday on community link-sharing site Reddit, and quickly grew to include several influential business leaders and media personalities. Among them were Y Combinator founderPaul Graham, Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh and celebrity/investor Ashton Kutcher. The company’s change-of-heart was announced today around the same time Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales Tweeted he would be transferring Wikipedia’s domains from Go Daddy in protest.

Go Daddy initially shrugged off the protests, issuing a nonchalant response to let people know it hasn’t negatively impacted its business — which was the equivalent of shaking the hell out of a giant beehive and not expecting to get stung. Boycott participators responded by publishing step-by-step tutorials for transferring a bulk of domains to a new registrar, complete with recommendations to competitors.

Go Daddy’s response didn’t get to to the heart of it. They basically claimed that SOPA might be poorly written, although they support the basic idea behind it, they are withdrawing support. They didn’t offer to fight it it or withdraw support from the  Senate’s PROTECT IP ACT. It gets worse for Go Daddy.

Hosting and domain registrar company Go Daddy has lost more than 37,000 domains in the past two days due to the company’s wishy-washy stance on the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Talk of a Go Daddy boycott began yesterday on community link-sharing site Reddit, and quickly grew to include several influential business leaders and media personalities. Among them were Y Combinator founderPaul Graham, Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh and celebrity/investor Ashton Kutcher. The company’s change-of-heart was announced today around the same time Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales Tweeted he would be transferring Wikipedia’s domains from Go Daddy in protest.

Go Daddy initially shrugged off the protests, issuing a nonchalant response to let people know it hasn’t negatively impacted its business — which was the equivalent of shaking the hell out of a giant beehive and not expecting to get stung. Boycott participators responded by publishing step-by-step tutorials for transferring a bulk of domains to a new registrar, complete with recommendations to competitors.

37,000 in two days before Christmas, looks like the beginning of an avalanche of bailouts. Now I’m left with a dillema.  This blog and the domain is hosted by Go Daddy, I’m paid up ahead, and I’ve been pretty happy with their service.  Host Gater is a local Houston Company has a good reputation, and is opposed to Govenment and Hollywood censorship. Their statement opposing SOPA:

Imagine if you were able to genetically combine Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Darth Vader and Barbara Streisand into one horrifically terrifying being. Now imagine that being is actually a piece of proposed legislature — the terrifying creation in your midst would then be the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which is currently being considered by the House.

SOPA, aka H.R. 3261 is a bill right now in the House sponsored by R-TX Lamar Smith. It’s not just any bill though, it’s a bill that would allow the USDOJ, RIAA, MPAA and anyone else who lobbies for the entertainment industry to effectively censor the internet to suit their needs.

So, I’ve got a lot to consider. moving the content and the domain is a scary thing,  a lot of work and some money. Perhaps if Go Daddy took a substantial stand to actually fight this thing my decision would be a little easier. A significant donation to someone like the Electronic Frontier Foundation perhaps?

A Wiki Boycott

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. is publically considering shutting down Wikipedia in protest of SOPA.

The proposed shutdown has nothing to do with technical problems or money issues, and everything to do with the Stop Online Piracy Act, an anti-piracy bill that has raised the ire of many major technology companies. This past weekend, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales posted a discussion on his Wikipedia user page suggesting that the English-language version of Wikipedia may temporarily go dark to protest the bill, which critics say gives movie studios and other copyright holders unprecedented power to shut down Web sites seen as infringing on their content.

SOPA endangers the very existence of Wikipedia,  and most any other site that relies on links or user input.  SOPA would criminalize links to sites that offer copyright violations, or other things that offend the sensibilities of the Hollywood crowd. On the surface this might sound reasonable bu the penalties kick in with out trial or court orders and site owners have little opportunity to defend themselves. Web owners and maintainers have a difficult time keeping their websites clean as it is. Most of us don’t want this crap on our sites and work hard and dilligently at keeping our sites clean, but it isn’t our job to protect the Hollywood moguls and their revenues.

SOPA is an attempt to shut down the internet, and restrict voices to only the Hollywood approved.  It is an attempt to shutdown search engines like Google or Bing. Google is very worried, and concerned that it will crimminalize every search engine.

An online piracy bill in the House would “criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself,” according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt said the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would punish Web firms, including search engines, that link to foreign websites dedicated to online piracy. He said implementing the bill as written would effectively break the Internet.

 

“By criminalizing links, what these bills do is they force you to take content off the Internet,” Schmidt said, calling it a form of censorship.

 

The search giant has been at the forefront of a tech industry backlash against the legislation from House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

“If Congress writes a bad law, we all suffer,” Schmidt said.

He compared the proposal to the Web censorship practiced by repressive foreign governments like China and doubled down on that comparison when speaking with reporters after his remarks at the Economic Club of Washington.

If Wikipedia shuts down in protest of the of SOPA I will pull the plug on my little Wiki , and if I can safely take my blog down for the duration I will take down this blog.  The Wiki is easy, I can literally just pull the plug.

Cyber Wars

The Cyber wars have esculated up one more notch with the discovery that our Predator and Reaper drone fleet has been infected with keylogger virus.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

So far no one knows who is harvesting this information and how damaging the leak is. It looks like we have entered a new era of warfare that includes virii and trojans.

 

Burning CDs

Like most people I have a CD/DVD burner on my computer.  I also have a stack of CDRs. I don’t believe many of use  CDs much anymore. We buy our computers with most of the software need already installed, and almost any other software or software upgrades we need can be bought or downloaded on line.  One thing that we do use our CD/DVD readers for is watching and listen to store bought disks. Other wise the CD/DVD burner is heading down the same path as floppy disks.  CDs wont work on the newest tablets Chrome, or Netbooks. Although on they are still standard equipment on Desktops Laptops and even servers, One might wonder if we will start to see these no longer supplied as standard.

I spend as lot of time behind the wheel, often through areas that have poor radio coverage. I could always use an MP3 player, but its not something I normally use. Pluging my phone in and listening to Google Music on my Android would be a good solution if I was always in range of a good 3G/4G  signal.  Most cars still come with MP3 players,

I burn MP3 CDs.  You can hold a lot of music on a CD. It normally works out to about 1 meg a minute.   One can get about 10 hour plus. on a CD without hearing the same song twice.   2 or 3 CDs in the Dash or console is enough music to get me anywhere in the country with some pretty great music No thumb drives, no MP3 players and no Apple I-tunes required.

Miro has proven to big resource in gathering music that is scattered all lover a computer and other local machines on a network. Miro will gather and aggregate your music and video media,  its a good player as well.  It takes some getting used  and learning It Works for most systems

Google Music is a nice way to listen to music on a phone while in the the civilized world. Make sure you download Google Music Manager though.  This is the program that searches and syncs music from your computer to the clouds.

Pandora is pretty nice, but I’m finding myself using it less and less.  MP3 cds play on my BlueRay players also.

Linux “abcde” is a linux command line driven program that kicks butt ripping CDs, There are good free rippers for any O/S.

Please feel free to to comment on your music solutions. I am interested in with how you pack and take your music with you.