Back on the Mac.

Aug 16

About two weeks ago I started to notice the issue that the keys on my Macbook Pro (2017 model with the butterfly keys) started to become “slightly unresponsive” (See the article “Death of the butterflies”). After dragging the Mac back to the store and explaining the issue to the tech it apparently got fixed. I’m very happy to report my Macbook is still under warranty, otherwise this little escapade might have cost met over 300 euro’s.

Where on a “normal” machine they just swap out a keyboard (I remember doing this almost blindfolded when working on IBM Thinkpads back in the day) the replacement of the Apple keyboard is close to brain surgery. Along with a new set of keys, I also got a new battery and a new lower half of my body. Basically I got my screen, my logic board and my harddrive back. The rest is new.

After spending more then 10 days constantly on my Dell Xps13, I have to admit that oging “back” to my Mac is something of a mixed blessing. Sure, here is my allround powermachine that does just about anything, from video editing to presentations, from running work-citrix to giving me the Unix command line. But the keyboard? I think the chance of the butterfly keys and me ever going into a long lasting loving relationship are slim. They keys might be slim, cool, thin, made out of fairy farts, but aside from lacking basic symbols ( Backslash, Pipe key, Tilde Key) the lack of travel does not feel right.

Having had “clogged butterflies” where my keytravel was messed up due to microscopuc elements of dust, I will never quite “trust” this keyboard again. Whatever happens I will always have this nagging feeling that somehow it just doesn’t “feel” right. “Was that tap OK ?” “Did that character get registered ?” “Oh ow, is it clogging up again ? “ I don’t know, maybe I’m focused too much on it or maybe there is something fundamentally wrong with Apple’s approach to the design. It’s a little bit of a moot point since i’m stuck with this machine for a while anyways.

That being said, I enjoyed having my XPS13 as a daily driver (YES, Running Windows !) The machine is light, fast, has mat screen and I still love it like the day I got it. It will always be a hard choice packing up in the morning and choosing “What laptop am I going to take with me”. I think that’s the curse of being a cross platform slider.

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KW1302 – A Look at Knightwise’s Kindle

Aug 11

A little more than a decade after Amazon introduced the Kindle and turned the eReader market on its head, Knightwise reminisces about some of the earlier reading experiences and provides recommendations for a bunch of great reads.

Devices

Books

Links

Credits

Episode produced by Keith Murray
Image courtesy of Constance Wiebrands on Flickr

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Death of the butterflies.

Aug 03

Tap.. tap .. taptaptap.. Grunt, blowing sound, tap tap TAP.. yeah, it sounds like somebody is frustrated behind their keyboard write ? Some Shmo pounding out an angry flame mail to a bunch of co-workers with half the org-chart splattered across to to and bcc field. But .. thats not the case. It”s just me trying to write up a little blogpost on a computer that suffers from dying butterflies.

Downside ? It makes EVERYTHING you type sound like an angry hate-mail to POTUS, even if you are doing a love letter.

‘Chokin the butterfies’
The butterflies I refer to are the keys on my keyboard. In Apple’s grand opus of “Thinking Different”, somebody in the giant glass donut thought it would be a good idea to radically change the way they keyboard worked on their new Macbook Pro’s. So they decided the butterfly key would be a great idea. Superslim keys that have virtually no “keytravel” (How ‘deep’ your key goes when you tap it) and that make the keyboard look like a giant touchpad. Upside ?: Cool and pretty thin (allowing them to thin-down the laptop a few millimeters). Downside ? It makes EVERYTHING you type sound like an angry hate-mail to POTUS, even if you are doing a love letter.

DD I press ‘i’ ?

But the biggest downside is that these keys are NOT dirt resistant. Tiny mote of sand or dust gets underneath your key ? Boom. no more room for travel. If you are lucky the keystrike is still recorded and you get your character on the screen, but it “feels” like you just didn’t strike that key. And that totally throws you out of the zone. If it is worse , the just doesn’t work at all and you end up POUNDING the letter out of the laptop by jamming your finger on it with too much force required.

‘Cupertino is gonna fix it’
Its a known issue with Apple and they promised to fix it in the NEXT generation. But for the current owners ? Well, there is a replacement program. Only you need to bring us your Macbook Pro so we can fix it. Well, Fix it is a big word, they are going to replace my keyboard (AND my Touch bar AND my battery, because the glued it all together) with similar hardware. So the chance that THOSE butterflies are going to “clog up” is still very real.

Well, the only thing I can do is wait for my Mac to be back. In the meantime I’ve ‘Fallen back’ to my Dell XPS 13 laptop (Running Windows 10 Pro) and that is NOT a bad place to be. The machine is slim, light and fast and the keys are .. well, better. Rattling out blogposts like this kinda feels like being a coder pounding out the next killer app. No dead butterflies here 🙂 Keep you posted.

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KW1301 – Getting iOS and Linux to Play Nicely Together

Jul 28

There are those times in life when you want to do things because you can… and sometimes you can leverage that in getting done all that you need to do.

Links

Code Snippets

  • Download your ‘watch later’ playlist
    youtube-dl -u <yourGmailAddress> -p <yourPassword> -f mp4 --playlist-start 1 https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=WL
  • Download ‘audio only’
    youtube-dl -u <yourGmailAddress> -p <yourPassword> -f m4a --playlist-start 1 https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=<your playlist id>

Credits

Episode produced by Keith Murray
Image courtesy of Blakespot on Flickr

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Why Offline is the new luxury

Jul 23

Fear of the dinosaur
I am really scared of a T-Rex. And when I say that i’m not talking about the 30 foot giant dino that scared the living crap out of those poor kids in the original Jurassic park film, but the little grey one that pops up in Chrome, when you don’t have an internet connection. Because that means that I am “Offline”. And these days “Offline” equals being lost at sea, or stuck in a cave, or stranded on one of the moons of Uranus. Or worse: Being stuck in a cave at the bottom of the sea on one of the moons of Uranus. You catch my drift: Being offline is bad.

Beyond the Blackberry: Offline is bad
Why is this? I vividly remember a time where 95% of my day was spent “offline”. Only when I would need to get “on the internet” would I use a little box that made screechy noises to temporarily connect my wonky PC to the world wide web. These days a computer without an internet connection is about as useful as can of window defroster in the Sahara.

It all changed when we got the first smartphones with a permanent connection. Those “Blackberry’s” in the hands of avidly tapping CEO’s would give them the infinite power to be connected all the time, everywhere. It was cool! That meant you could spam them 24/7 with useless questions like “When do I get a raise” knowing that would help to get a rise of of them (Hah).

But somewhere along the line this all changed and we needed to be connected all the time, first so we could be pinged and dinged 24/7, then because we had a massive case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and next because all of our data and our applications were in the could. No pipe? No Party.

The cloud is a blessing in disguise. Sure: our data was safe from failing hard drives and homework devouring K9’s, but we need a permanent pipe to get to them. That’s ok, bandwidth is cheap and connections are ubiquitous, but not omnipresent. Commuting by Train from Brussels does mean that at times the 4g connectivity on my phone is spotty and at some points cuts out altogether. Very annoying when you are in the middle of a cloud based session and not reliable at all. But instead of fearing those moments I’ve begun to embrace them.

I’ve found out “Offline” is great time to blog, to tinker with video’s. To edit down Audio file or to meticulously murder and decimate any mails that are hanging around in my inbox.

The luxury of begin without a connection
There is an incredible luxury about being offline because all the distractions you might encounter go away. No more pings, dings and doodah’s from Facebook or Whatsapp. No more side-quests to hunt down a life-sized My little pony on amazon. No silly youtube cat video’s that eat hours of your time. No more emails that drop into your inbox right when you are in the middle writing up a killer reply to the previous mails. Just … you, your keyboard and your computer. The virtual doors to your man (or woman) cave a closed, the doorbell is unplugged and you get to soak in the digital bubblebath of your own creativity (or focus) without being disturbed.

I’ve found out “Offline” is great time to blog, to tinker with video’s. To edit down Audio file or to meticulously murder and decimate any mails that are hanging around in my inbox. The sweet 90 minutes of Downtime I get as I zoom through the Belgian spotty cellphone-covered countryside are actually the most productive ones of my day.

Make the tech work
Sure I have to make sure the tech works. That means most of my services and clients need to able to ‘handle’ offline. Syncing to your local drive is a great option. Apps like Onedrive, Onenote, Outlook, Dropbox all have the ability to ‘work offline’ and push/pull incremental changes once the packets from the inter-webs return. Not every app or service support that. But think about it. If you NEED constant connectivity to do that one key thing you need to do, you are very vulnerable should the handy workmen decide to accidentally rip up your internet connection while doing some digging.

Are you a constantly connected cloud-crackwhore that cannot live without a public IP or a 4bar wireless signal ?

Enjoy the silence
So here is my question: How much CAN you still DO offline? Are you a constantly connected cloud-crackwhore that cannot live without a public IP or a 4bar wireless signal ? Are your workflows so tied into the cloud that without them the only think you are good at is grunting like a gorilla as you wave your useless smartphone around ? I’m dying to know. You can tell me all about it, when I get back online.

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KW1300 – Gearing Up

Jul 21


We’re back and getting ready for another season of geeky goodness on the Knightwise.com podcast. Come check out this latest edition, and find out where to connect with the community as we’ve done a little house cleaning.

Links

Credits

Episode produced by Keith Murray
Image courtesy of TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay

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Tyranny of the default: Native or 3rd party apps ?

Jul 14


What apps do you prefer on your platform ?  Third party apps or Native apps ? We go through the pro’s and cons of both in today’s video-rant.

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Mid-Range or Flagship : What is the perfect phone for a geek ?

Jul 13


Driving in the car, I ponder what new smartphone I could get and the bizarre differences in prices and specs that you can find on the android phone market. I pose the important question: Flagship or Midrange ? What is the perfect phone for a geek.

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How your “Tech Tells” help you get mugged

Jul 07

More then meets the eye! It’s the tagline for the classic Transformer series and also quite fitting for today’s blog about ‘security through obscurity’ when it comes to .. your laptop bag. You guys know i’m kind of a bag-man. I love my laptop bags, backpacks, messenger bags cases etc.

Most expensive laptop bags scream: “STEAL ME! Expensive stuff inside”

I have quite the collection (mostly Thule and Crumpler bags) and can spend quite a bit of time deciding which carry-bag is going to be appropriate for my daily mission on the road. Lately I have been traveling a lot via public transport and I started to notice something: Most expensive laptop bags scream: “STEAL ME! Expensive stuff inside”. It might be your company issues “stock” HP or Dell laptop bag (Ugh, I hate those) OR your pretty expensive hipster PC backpack that gets you into trouble. Why ? Not because your gear isn’t well protected against physical shocks, but because nefarious people KNOW by certain ‘tells’ that you might carry something valuable.

We all have certain “Tells”

These “tells” might be the brand and size of your bag but there are also other things that might tip people off. What kind of phone do you have there, what type of earbuds, how about the shoes you wear ? Or your clothes? All of those things pulled together might give a possible pickpocket a pretty good idea of how ‘wealthy’ you are and what the chances might be of getting a good ‘catch’ when they lift your gear without you knowing it.

Are their shoes shiny, clean and expensive? Is that an Apple Watch ?

Playing the “Tell” Game

Lately I’ve been playing the “tell” game on the train to Brussels: Trying to ascertain the “value” of a “target” using my powers of observation. (Just by looking) and it is a lot of fun to do when you get it right. Is commuter X in front of me nothing but a poor student with a crummy laptop or might there be a Dell XPS15 in that bag ? I take a look at their phone, the state the phone cover is in. I take a look at the headset he has on. Just a couple of no-name earbuds or are we talking a 500 dollar Bose here? Clothing gives a lot away. Are their shoes shiny, clean and expensive? Is that an Apple Watch ? (Then there should be an iPhone in there somewhere). When you really start paying attention there are a lot of ways we inform the outside world about our lifestyle and the tech we are carrying.

What are YOUR “Tells” ?

So I challenge you to take stock of your outward signs techno-wealth? Do you flaunt your Apple watch on the subway? Does your backpack show what brand of laptop might be inside? Are your noise cancelling headsets draped around your neck as you walk to class? What signs might you give pickpockets that you might be quite the catch?

Start by hiding the obvious

I’ve started thinking about this during my trainride into Brussels and thinking: How can I start hiding the obvious. One of the things I thought about was my backpack. So I started this little experiment in “hiding” my gear in something less “conspicuous”: A 25 euro general purpose backpack from Decathlon (a local sporting and outdoor store). These things are ubiquitous. College students, soccer-dads, blue-colar workers.. They all seem to have them and use them for a variety of uses. Schoolbooks, Lunch, Sporting gear .. you never quite know what is inside. Ideal for hiding my tech stuff. No ?

Of course the bag needs some “work”. I’m not gonna shove a naked Macbook Pro into a 25 Euro nylon sack. I’m not insane. The bag is going to need some adjustments to keep everything safe AND I also want some additional measures to fly “under the radar” of nasty people who want to steal my gear. I”ll tell you about those in my next post.

Link: https://www.decathlon.be/nl/p/rugzak-nh-500-20-liter/_/R-p-156340

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What am I reading this summer

Jul 06

I love to read. If there is anything that is powerful enough to slow down my ever raging mind, then it’s a good book. But finding the right one is always a hassle caused by the abundance of choice. If you go to the library, you lend out a bo9, put it in your pocket and read it till you bring it back. Reading on an ereader is a different experience. You have a TON of books to choose from and you can carry around a 100 of them at the same time. So picking (and sticking) to a book is sometimes harder then you think.

Stuttering impulse drives

The last couple of months I have been going through a little bit of a crisis. You see: I used to LOVE Star Trek novels and could be enthralled in a good Star Trek story for days. I remember reading entire series of Star Trek books on holiday and enjoying every minute of it. Lately finding a ‘good’ Star Trek novel has been hard. The last series I finished was the ‘a Time to’ series that took place in the TNG era. When trying out the ‘Destiny’ series the impulse drive of my engagement with the story started to sputter. The reason that all the post TNG – post Nemesis books just didn’t ‘click’. Wether its Riker on the Titan or Ezri Dax as Captain of her supership it .. just does not feel right. So I decided to dive off the deep and an go looking for something else.

The Expanse Series: James Corey

Enter James Corey and his series of books called ‘The Expanse’. If you have seen (and enjoyed) the TV show, go pick up the books ..now. 8 massive books later (I even read book 4 and 5 ON PAPER) I put down the cliffhanger book of one of the most intriguing, actually ‘believable’ hard scifi books. The series greatly reminded my of the works by Arthur C Clarke: great scifi where all the math and science lines up. The last book still has to come out by I am already looking forward to it.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

After that I decided I would sink my teeth into some of the classic scifi authors of the cyberpunk genre. I had tried to get through Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash as an audiobook. But I had a hard time keeping up my interest with the book. It might be considered blasphemy, but to me the book is a little dated looking at todays technology, and although i’m Belgian and Surrealism is part of my culture, pizza-maffia just doesn’t do it for me. So when I accidentally stumbled across Seveneves I was amazed to find out it was by the same author! The story: The moon breaks up after getting hit by a black hole and the resulting meteor cloud wipes out all life in earth. Earth has 2 years and 12 people on the ISS to get shit organised for the survival of our species. This tantalisingly realistic read will have every scifi nerd perched on the tip of his chair while challenging him or her to Google stuff about orbital mechanics, pooping in Zero G, Dna and genetic manipulation AND how to turn a floating piece of space ice into a steam-rocket. I had a bit of a hard time with the second part of the book (the story jumps ahead 5000 years) but the first half put Deep Impact and Armageddon to shame.

No love for Solo

So time to go on my summer holiday. Problem: I had not found a good fiction book to read. I tried re-reading the original Han Solo trilogy (The story about how Han Solo becomes ..well Han Solo) starting out with Han as an orphan all the way up to the moment where he and his wookie buddy meet this old guy and this young boy in a Bar in Mos Esley. But again, the story just didn’t get me. Although I greatly enjoyed ‘Tarkin’ by James Lucino, the ‘Force’ wasn’t with me this time.

Dan Simmons: The Terror

To spend our first evening in our cottage I decided to try watching the first episode of Amc’s ‘The Terror’ a series based around the failed Franklin expedition: 2 British ships that got stuck in the artic ice in 1845 and their race to stay alive while being chased by a giant ‘thing’ on the ice. I am a sucker for books, tv shows and movies that will have you Googling and Wiki-ing your way through facts and tidbits, so I was thrilled to see that the series was based on a true story AND the novel for the series had been written by Dan Simmons, one of the classic Authors who wrote the Hyperion. So i was hooked, paused the series, downloaded the book on my Kindle and started reading.

The story is great, the characters are believable, the monster on this ice is well, a monster, but a lot of the story and scenes are based on historical facts. These facts are abundant in pictures on wikipedia and historical documents online. Some letters in the book written by Captain Crozier: Can be found in a museum in Canada. The book one shipmate lends to another as they leave the boats behind ? It’s part of an exhibition. Even the mummie of a dead crewmember recovered more then a 100 years later is on display. This makes all of it very “real” and very very interesting. The book is well written and prods you to find out more about rigging, masts, sailing, navigation and shipboard life in 1845 and about the technology they used. Very very interesting stuff and a great holiday read. The book of course diverts from historical events (it’s a Novell) but is a great read I would surely recommend.

Links.

Star Trek: A time to…

James Corey: Expanse Series

James Luceno: Tarkin

The Terror: Amc

The Terror: Dan Simmons

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