Remember those old spy movies ? Where the secret agent / spy would walk around with a small camera to quickly snap shots of some ultra secret documents in a momentarily abandoned office ? Remember the suspense as you sat on the edge of your seat yelling “Hurry up” in front of your television ? Lets face it : Those spies were geekin out hard : In essence they were the first to master the tedious art of scanning documents.
Somewhere along the way we lost our minds because in the late 90″s we had massive flatbed scanners to do the exact same thing. For those of you who still have a scanner : You know its the most idiotic waste of office / desk space that you have ever owned. Scanners are a kind of high tech coaster for whatever crap you stack on top of them. Why ? because you seldom need them and when you do .. Well after an excavation operation to actually find the scanner under that pile of comics, you then have to make sure the document is the right side up, find a free usb port on your pc and you end up cursing and wasting time.
So why not be Mr Spy all over again ? With the 24 megapixel camera on your smartphone its quite easy to snap up a good picture of a document. Now all you need to do is get those secret plans into your administration system. Enter the new Google Drive app on android that comes with a bunch of new features making it easier to digitize that document. It not only saves the snapshot into your Google Drive, but also preforms OCR right in the cloud. Letting you edit copy and paste the text. Compared to scsi cables, flatbed scanners, OCR applications under Windows .. this is quite a nifty tool.
So start using your smartphone (with the new Google Drive app )as your digital wireless scanner and snap up those documents straight away. Feel the urge to print them too ? Take a look at the long forgotten Google Cloud Print and turn those documents in your Google Drive back to ground up pieces of tree.
Ever wondered which Usb flash drive you own is the fastest ? For copying your My Little Pony picture collection back and forth, speed might not be the biggest issue, but what if you want to do more. For example : Run a complete operating system from that USB stick ? As we mentioned in the last podcast episode it’s possible to run a complete (Linux) operating system from your stick. And since you are using your little portable friend as a hard drive ..Speed is essential.
So benchmark your own Usb drive with the USBFlashSpeed.com site to help you buy the hyperspeed on a stick .. from your keychain.
Links : UsbFlashspeed.com
(Thanx Listener Lloyd for the tip)
At the age of 17 I owned my first real personal computer. A 8086 XT Pc. It had a whopping 20 MB hard disk and a “color” screen. Monochrome “amber”, the referred to as the only color the screen could display. Booting took minutes, installing software took tweaking and knowledge, and all in all it was new, exciting and fun. And it was beige, of course. Back then … everything was beige.
One day, rumors started drifting my way : Other students told me about BBS’ s, mysterious computer systems hiding behind a telephone number. Managed by ‘SysOp’s', another kind of super computer human who ‘controlled the system’. Most of them were underground and mysterious, some of them were a professional service. Some of them might have been pirates on a ship in the middle of the Caribian .. or maybe not.
I was intrigued. Intrigue turned to marvel, marvel to desire. A Modem had to be bought, installed and put to dear use. And so a journey began. With a modem installed the previous day, a terminal client on a floppy and a telephone number scribbled on a piece of paper I came home and sat down on my throne. Somewhat nervous I started the application and configured a new ‘Remote Host’. The telephone number of “De Digitale Stad” (The Digital City) in Amsterdam was entered and squeaking and whining a connection was made. “De Digitale stad” was connected to “The Internet” and therefor I became empowered with “The E-Mail” (Exclamation Mark to be inserted while reading this.) To actually use e-mail I had to use mutt, a text based email client. And after probing and prodding, I composed the first e-mail in my life.
After pondering and correcting, contemplating I came up with the body : “Test” (Poetry, pure and simple !). Lovely, but to whom should I sent it ? The only email address I knew was my own. Well,it was just as good as any ! (I was an interesting person to talk to..so why not ? ) The brand new address was carefully typed in the correct field and the “ctrl <s>” was pressed. ZOOMM … my first digital message began it’s way into cyberspace. (Pause a second … or two ) And there it arrived back to me ! Well that was quick! Marvelous new technology ! I yet had to learn that the message probably never even left the server, but the excitement of it all, the possibilities at my finger tips! I could e-mail with someone across the ocean! At no extra cost. Huzzah !
Since I didn’t really knew anybody across the pond and my curiosity wasn’t utterly fulfilled with the services on “De Digitale Stad”. And so I searched for some other BBS’s and found them. Lists with telephone numbers were exchanged again during school hours, with notes on how good and worthwhile they were. Connecting through a telephone line at 2400 baud gets you about 240 characters per second if I recall, and that was exactly what you got: Characters. In full color, where available.
And boy , those menu’s were filled with options: downloading .JPG’s, downloading .mod’s (the Camemans MP3), and chatting with other user(s). The plural of “User” only applied if the sysop had more than one landline. This was however rarely the case on any of the BBS’s I visited.
And of course there was the magical ability for ‘uploading’. Uploading to get credits, credits to allow downloading. What I downloaded I uploaded somewhere else to gain even more credits! Meanwhile, through the messaging boards I got to know people, learned about computers, learned how to set up a BBS myself and after a while people called into my system. Dropping files, typing messages, submitting stories, manuals, hacks and books. We were “surfing” at the cutting edge of technology!
But in a world which is always connected, offering enough bandwidth to stream HD movies and connect to thousands of online friends those systems were sure to fade away. Or were they?
Well, if you would start a telnet session to towel.blinkenlights.nl you will see an ascii version of starwars. Telnet to miku.acm.uiuc.edu and you will see Nyancat which is all nice, but telnet to xanadubbs.ca (open a shell and just type : “telnet xanadubbs.ca”) and you will end up in a secluded world, a singularity in CyberSpace, a BBS. Not searchable, but menu driven and ancient to the touch, it will be a journey back in time.
At quadrilion times the speed “we had back in the day..”. And rest asured : there are many more like it. No longer through a modem, no longer at a bitrate a professional typist could defeat with one hand, but the “feel” is as authentic as it ever was.
Hosting a BBS yourself ought to be do-able, just have a look at lunduke’s post here. Hmmm, I just might start one myself and when I do, I’ll scribble the address on a note here.
If you want to get a feel of how it really was, go to the Internet Archive here and watch the documentary. Make sure to keep an acoustic 300 baud modem in mind when the gazillion of bytes you need so much to be transformed in a HD movie take a bit longer to arrive at your enormous hard disk, than you would like. You live in a future we couldn’t foresee back then. Enjoy it.
Remember when you where little ? Perhaps back in the 80″s when Transformers where “kids kinda cool” ? When Michael Bay was still blowing stuff up in his bedroom and had not gotten the chance to pick up the Transformer franchise ? Back in those days the biggest transformer toy you could buy would have been Metroplex. This is probably the laziest Transformer alive because he Transforms into a City. A CITY ! Why ? Is there a way to be more useless and lazy ? (Metroplex just lays around all day watching traffic jams go by near his groin area). But hey : the toy was cool .. it was HUUUGE. Well .. not anymore. Hasbro has just reinvented Metroplex. And this baby will look huge in your living room but also quite formidable on your credit card statement when you buy him. Your beloved wife/girlfriend won’t speak to you for a month and you will have no room anymore for your cat/dog/kid in that little apartment .. But hey .. its METROPLEX.
Do you have any USB Thumbdrives lying around collecting dust or data that you haven’t used in quite a while ? Those days are gone after you listen to this weeks episode of the Knightwise.com podcast. We show you how to “live of a stick” and have both your data, your applications and even your complete operating system .. running on a stick.
- Different kinds of drives
- Portable Apps
- System Rescue Cd
- Backtrack & Orphcrack (not mentioned in the show)
- Install Linux on an encrypted drive
The hardest decision what to do with your free time is that moment where you have nothing to do then to stare at your screen and wait. It might be you are in the most boring conference call in all eternity of eternities or that you are the sixth billionth caller in line to Dell tech support .. You need something to do. So here is a nice tip. What happens if you crossbreed Lemmings with Wallace and Grommit : You get “Home Sheep Home”. This nice web-based puzzle game lets you help “Shaun the Sheep” guide his fellow woollies back to the barn. Graphically simple yet superb and with a soundboard that would revel ANY Angry bird game out there… 400th person in line ? Get your sheep home NOW.
Link : Home Sheep Home.
When working with the silver bezels of OSX, we sometimes forget that underneath this polished operating system (that seems to favor the non-power user more and more) sits a powerful command line. We found a nice instructional video that shows you some of the neat “Linux Style” command line ninja moves that can help you when you are using the CLI. So come on “command line kid” … Wax on … Wax off !
What are YOUR favorite OSX command line shortcuts ? Tell us in the comments section.
I always feel the need to chuckle when I hear people rave against “Changes” and “Updates” to the interfaces of some of our social media platforms. Like 80 year old women cling to their desperate assumptions that Matlock IS (or was) the most sexy man on television, Facebook users think that “the way things are” are always worse then the way ‘things used to be’. I would call us old before we ever the end of our 20′s, but its just a fact of life. So lets take our little autistic crowd of Facebookians and see what it would be like if your boss would go “all zuck” on you … in your real life.
It had only been a couple of days since the release of the latest version of Ubuntu’s next incarnation 13.04 when I decided it would be time to give it a spin on my Lenovo Thinkpad. I had only purchased the little 11.6 inch I3 laptop a couple of days earlier ( A nice second hand machine if I may say so ) and was planning on using it for most of my day-to-day computing tasks. Having read up on all the ‘latest’ features to come to 13.04 I was looking forward to the next version of Nautilus and having a peek at the new “Friends” application that had come to replace Gwibber. But most of all I was looking forward to the speed increase in Unity.
Four hours later I woke from a daze of searching forums, entering command line strings, downloading packages, fixing dependencies and filing bugs to a system that was actually working. As it turned out the “bleeding edge” of Ubuntu Distro’s had been hemorrhaging into my work schedule where it had eaten up the precious time of “Getting things done” in favour of “Getting things to work”. The system was operational, but somehow I did not have the confidence in my installed machine that I normally have. Why ? Because I take my computers seriously. Computers are an integral part of my work routine and I actually rely on my Linux powered computers to get things done for work, but also for things like blogging, podcast producing and so forth. And I hold those Linux powered systems to high standards : They have be stable, reliable, consistent and most of all, help me to get things done.
I flash back 7 or 8 years when I bought my first iBook (G4 powered Mac Laptop) and experienced the joy of having a computer that helped me be creative and get things done. This is raw contrast to the dodgy XP and Vista systems that seem to need constant cleaning, maintenance, repair and re installations. I had a computer that got the job done.. And I liked it.
So having spent 4 hours on a “bleeding edge” Linux distribution to get it working just the way I wanted to had been a learning experience (as most Linux related things are) but not quite what I had in mind for the afternoon. With Blogposts unwritten, Podcasts unrecorded, work email .. unchecked it somehow reminded me of those dodgy XP machines we spent hours to fix. I wiped the drive and re-installed trusty Ubuntu 12.04 (Long term support) exchanging bleeding edge features for slightly older and boring well supported stability. I did it because I needed to get OTHER stuff done.
The question has been nagging in my mind ever since : What if we took Linux seriously. And by that I do not mean the “ham-shack amateur passion” in which we all run our own favorite super tweaked distribution. Not in the way we bicker and squabble over the best graphical user interface.. But ‘Serious’ in the way a company would use it. Over the last couple of years I’ve seen the Linux scene expand in adoption and popularity. From the bearded geeks in their basements whose only source of light was a flickering command line prompt to a much larger host of geeks and even end users who have discovered the wondrous world of Tux. But the question remains if the Linux community with its resources of developers, bug fixers, advocates and users would be enough in a “real world environment”.
To illustrate my point let me pose you a question. What Linux distribution would you pick to install on 2600 workstations, spread over 4 countries. Its average user level “novice” its support and management servers centralized With Microsoft’s “active directory” things like remote configurations, policies and software packaging are quite able to produce a somewhat uniform and centrally managed workstation landscape. What Linux system would you pick to replace it ? On the one hand stability and support is an issue, so the ‘bleeding edge’ of Debian Testing might not be something towards you would want to entrust your day-to-day business processes. On the other hand there is the issue of support where you need to make sure that your install base is not starved out of patches and support after 9 months. And lastly there is of course the need for a centralized system to make sure system configurations, policies and so forth can be managed from one location.
When I look around the Linux landscape today I see few distributions that are up to the corporate task of being the primary OS for a desktop workforce (I am not talking about servers) As colorful as distributions like Pear_OS or Hanna Montanna Linux might be, they do not have the resources to make in the corporate world. Other distributions like Suse or Redhat ( who have corporate backing ) lack any form of centralized management and configuration tools like Microsofts Active Directory. You might have a fair chance of rolling them out on the desktop, but only to a workforce that is able to install and repair their own workstations. And then there are those other distro’s who are looking for an unity between their different platforms. They are shunned for “selling out” to the idea of “free and open source” in favor of making a buck.
And so I ponder what would happen if some bloggers got what they asked for. “Windows will be dead in 2 years”. Then what ? What os is going to be on the workstation of your aunty Jeanne over at the DMV ? Who is gonna support Uncle Joe as his Arch Linux workstation reports broken dependencies. What company will be the first to roll out “Hanna Montana Linux” as their strategic choice for the desktop. We have been touting for years that “The Linux Desktop” is gonna make it to the mainstream, but I wonder what we do if we get there. Because then it will be in the hands of the “average” users. Students who need to get their papers done. Accountants who need to file tax returns, Tattoo artists who need to have a high res picture of that Hanna Montana clipart before they paint it on your shoulder. People who do not have the slightest notion what Linux is about and why it is so great. People unaware they can compile packages from source or tweak their system to a whole new level. People who associate penguins with David Attenborough instead of Richard Stallman. People who are not in the know. In other words : People who need to take this stuff seriously and use their computer not to “do things” but to get things done.
“Its about these guys… that are just like you ! .. and they are FUNNY !!!” my “norm”* friend giggles as he waves his arms up and down frantically and points towards the television. Yes … he IS referring to “The Big Bang Theory” a show that has him very excited for he himself is only just dipping his toes into the great “pond of geek”. Having installed his first Linux distribution and discovering the world of Irc and Google+ have been epic tasks that have been entrusted upon him by his wise geek Overlord .. ME. “He is ready” my inner voice says .. “to see the geek classics”. I try to hold back from opening the floodgates to our rich geek culture. Where movies like “The ghost in the machine” are a classic. Where everyone can dub the first lines from the movie “Dune” by heart. Where David Hasselhoff is a cult legend and where Serenity is considered a form of religion.
So I am faced with the difficult choice of offering him his “Next Geek Tv show” to watch. So I go over my shortlist in random order.
- Battlestar Galactica. (both the original and the revamped series.)
- Star Trek. ( not really a ‘watch this’ assignment, rather a complete lifestyle makeover.)
- Serenity. (One must know what a Browncoat is.)
- Babylon 5. ( For all women, like centaury, should be bald somewhere.)
- A dash of classic Dr Who featuring Tom Baker. (For one must know why ones girlfriend must knit a scarf.)
- … and so many more.
So before I make my decision … What do YOU think are the TOP 5 geek shows ANY budding geek should watch ? Tell us in the comments section.
* norm : Non-geek .. lamen .. Noob.