Everything but the Oink

Sep 10

It’s not a unique concept, and it certainly isn’t something I arrived at first, but over the past year or so I’ve been working on making more out of what I have, and making sure I use things more completely. The phrase I’ve thrown about is one that I have appropriated from CGP Grey and Myke Hurley on Cortex, and that is “The Year of Less.” My take has been a bit different, so let’s talk about that and see if you think there’s any benefit to this strategy for you.

In our highly technical world it’s very easy to get caught up in the unending march towards faster, better, and more. It’s enticing. It’s exciting. There’s always a new and shiny thing on the horizon. Computers and electronics have always driven this kind of change and adoption. Phones have made this an order of magnitude more prevalent.

My original goal had less to do with some desire to “do more with less” and more to take care of clutter that had been accumulating in my life. There was a seemingly unending pile of “stuff” that had been purchased for one reason or another but never really got much use. Some electronics, some household items, but it’s the same general issue.

The epiphany came during this cleanup process. As I was going through the “stuff” I began to realize how little of it I actually needed. Many of the items I had could do double or triple duty if I used them a bit differently which would allow for many other things to be gifted, donated or disposed of. This was the ‘monkey touch the monolith’ moment for me: I had too many unitaskers. Too many oft ignored specialist tools that were mostly taking up space.

There are cultures in this world that are very good at making full use of the animals they raise for food. While some people may find it strange or off-putting to eat chicken feet, ox tail or pig ears, there are other places that use the whole animal. Making full use of every last thing on the beast. To do any less would be to disrespect the pig, or the cow, or the chicken. Use everything but the oink. Why should our technology be any different?

As long as my stuff is working I don’t need to get the new shiny. Phones should last more than a year (or two). Computers should last more than a few years — I’m hoping to get at least 6 out of mine. It was time to stop accumulating and using the things I have more completely. Time to get more out of what I had. So I’ve eliminated the “stuff” replaced one computer, and have reduced by a full 1/3 the number of IP-addressable devices in my home.

I’m not trying to change the world, just make my own a bit more efficient and a lot less cluttered.

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KW1109 What’s on my iPhone

May 28

Home Screen?

You want to know what’s on Knightwise’s home screen? This is the episode for you. Knightwise talks about all the key apps on his shiny new iPhone and how he uses those to get things done, and maintain his slider’s lifestyle.

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Music

Credits

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KW1108 Protecting your Privacy at Work

Apr 09

With all the news lately about the risks to your online privacy and personal information knowing how to look after your data has become an essential skill. It’s not too difficult to do this at home where you have full control of your environment, but what do you do when you’re at work?

Links

Music

  • Борисов Евгений– Trance [Jamendo]

Credits

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KW1107 Let the Technology Work for You

Mar 22

We’re back! It’s the first episode of 2017. Knightwise reinforces the sliders ethos by kicking Linux to the curb — well sorta.

Links

Music

  • Lightning Traveler – Summer [Jamendo]

Credits

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The Many Faces of Reddit

Mar 05

On the Internet, we all have our “time sinks”; those big bad dark rabbit holes that suck up our attention for hours on end while real life (and productivity) passes us by.

For some of you that might be Facebook, Google+, Pinterest or even Wikipedia (in which case, bravo!). For me my time sink is Reddit. Yes that strange forum-place that has a “sub” for just about anything and is packed with comments, snarky remarks and all out flame wars. In short: the best and the worst the Internet has to offer.

I have personally selected a set of sub-reddits that interest me, from /r/chernobyl to /r/homeservers and from the intriguing /r/documentaries to the embarrassing /r/tifu. Reddit continues to be a source of entertainment and information for me that can keep me away from the mediocre rivers of sludge that we call Facebook or the “mainstream” media.

I interact with Reddit on a variety of platforms and locations. In short: If it has an Internet connection, I want to be able to check Reddit on it. I seldom stoop so low as to access Reddit via a regular browser (only if I have to) and prefer to use the following clients instead.

iOS: The ‘Official’ Reddit client
On my iPhone (and iPad) I have tried out several apps that let me have digital intercourse with the little alien guy (The Reddit icon) but I have settled on the standard Reddit client. Its not as highly configurable al some of the alternatives but its simplicity has its advantages when you are on the road. Commenting, browsing and searching through subreddits is easy and the apps is pretty fast. 4/5 stars!
Reddit for iOS (App Store)

Windows: Redditting
There are not a lot of cool apps in the Windows store, but Redditing is surely one of them. This great Windows clients lets you browse Reddit easily both on a “standard” desktop interface or on your Surface pro 4 using your stubby cheeto-covered fingers. I love using Redditting to browse through the wallpaper section of Reddit (/r/wallpapers or /r/starshipporn) and downloading all the cool wallpapers using the cool “download” button.
Redditting for Windows (Microsoft Store)

Linux: Rtv
On Linux (On my Raspberry Pi that is) the command line is your friend and RTV is probably one of the coolest and nerdiest applications out there. RTV gives you a nice color coded CLI interface to browse your favorite subs, do posts and make comments. Clicking a link opens a command line browser which makes /r/wallpapers a Sub that is a little … empty.
Rtv for Linux (Github)

MacOS: Reditr
Finally when I cuddle up behind my massive 15″ Macbook Pro I use Reditr to browse through Reddit. When it comes to look and feel its a lot like Redditting, minus the touch-friendly design. The great thing with Reditr is that it is fast and simple to work with, giving you a learning curve that a brain dead hamster could master in under 30 seconds.
RedditR (Mac App Store)

Android: Reddit is Fun
Reddit is Fun ‘makes’ reddit fun on Android tablets and smartphones. A true and capable competitor to the “official” Reddit app with the standard abilities to post, comment and up-vote but which also sports an easy to learn interface that lets you discover NEW reddit subs just by punching in the right search term. Now you can say you stumbled across your favorit /r/bronies completely BY ACCIDENT.
Reddit is Fun (Google Play Store)

Reddit is great and has a lot to offer. Thanks to these cool clients I’m able to get the most out of my time spent on the site. Up-votes, down-votes, comments, replies, fresh posts. I start them on one device and pick up where I left off on another… “Slider Style!”

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Windows on the Dell

Mar 03

A little more then a year ago I bought my very first laptop that came pre-packaged with Linux. My slick, cool, small and light Dell XPS 13 was probably the first laptop I bought that did not have the OEM stickers stuck to the palm rest, removed. Usually I peel off these lame “Windows” or “Intel” stickers, but in this case the shiny orange UBUNTU sticker stayed on as a badge of honor.

I have been using the machine quite frequently over the last year, mostly tinkering with it to get the “pre-installed” version of Ubuntu “just right”. Because quite frankly, as “compatible” as this machine ought to be with Linux, it wasn’t. After several hours spent scrolling through forums, chatting on IRC and posting on Reddit I had rolled back the bios version and edited a bunch of config files just to stop the keyboard from jumping to “aaaaaaaaaaatttttorrrrrrrrrepeat” (very annoying). But like the owner of an Alfa Romeo I enjoyed the process because I love to tinker.

Fast forward about a year and my life is a little bit different. With a full time consultancy gig at one of my clients and quite a few business projects on the side, I don’t have as much free time as I used to have. As a result, the little Dell got started to get left out. Since I needed some business applications like Office, Visio and Outlook (for the gig at the client) I did not get a chance to play around with the Ubuntu sporting Dell as often as I wanted to.

Several times I’ve tried to switch over my workflow to be as “cross platform compatible” as I could, but when you need to send Visio or Word files back and forth, Open Office might be found lacking at times. The other point of sheer frustration was that I could not (neither with my own skills or those of the bluetooth stack developer) get a bluetooth mouse to work under linux. Result ? The XPS started collecting dust in favor of my Surface Pro 4 that went to work with me every day.

So this week I said “no more”. I was fed up with having an expensive laptop just sitting there because it’s OS doesn’t fit into my workflow and I don’t have the time to adjust my workflow. So I wiped it and installed Windows 10 on it gasp!

Have I betrayed my Linux roots? Have I forsaken my sliders promise? No. I have not.

I am still running Linux on it! 🙂 A fast, snappy and dark-themed version of Linux Mint is what i’m using right now, in a VM! Thats right I’ve decided to stop letting hardware issues and workflow incompatibly interfere with my chance to run Linux. Now I just run Linux on all my machines… in Virtual Machines! Along with whatever core OS (Windows, MacOS) sits on top of the hardware.

I’ll write about my experiences more later this week (don’t want to bore you with a mega long post) but suffice to say that thanks to modern day processors and snappy VM apps like VirtualBox, there is no noticeable difference between running Linux in a VM and running Linux natively on the hardware. Aside from the fact that everything just works! And I can just “slide” my mouse across to my second screen and finish up that Visio drawing, using my bluetooth mouse!

In the end everyone wins. I get to have Linux at my fingertips, I still have the power to use “work” related apps whenever I need to and my little Dell XPS 13 is living up to be a good investment because now I finally use it some more. I ended up dual-booting Linux years ago to go native. I’ve not given up running Linux natively; I just want to “slide” from OS to OS and with these VM’s that works just fine.

Image Credit: Pierre Lecourt on Flickr

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No excuse: Just do it

Mar 01

If you take a look at all the devices we have these days, over-connected and filled with apps and what-have-you’s, the excuse of not ‘getting around’ to producing content just is pathetic. Right now I’m on my phone, using a lull between two meetings. When my battery indicator prompts me to plug in my charger, I disconnect only to pick up this text file again on my desktop since I’ve magically synced it using the cloud. You see, the problem with being creative is not the convenience or even the lack of time, it’s the lack of focus.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been inundated with work. A ton of projects coming my way, demanding my attention and taking focus away from all the other things. Regardless of where I was or how much time I had to spare, there was always something that yanked at my attention, keeping me away from doing something useful with a blinking cursor on an empty screen.

I thought for a long time that connectivity is the enemy of creativity. The ability to get distracted by hundreds of pings and doo-dah’s coming from a myriad of applications and sources is indeed horrible if you are trying to write something. When you are just about to start off on writing the next Hamlet your time and focus gets stolen by watching cute cat video’s instead.

time break, I’ve been away for 4 minutes and 38 seconds watching a random cat video

But in the end it is me who is responsible for procrastinating and not creating my next podcast episode, my next blogpost, my next creative outlet. Instead, whenever I’m not buried in work, I procrastinate by doing other things. Tinkering with apps and computers to get things ‘setup just right’ is one of them. My delusional self has somehow been convinced that I need “the perfect setup” of hardware/software in order to get things done. Mucking around for hours with applications, operating systems, network and storage setups seems to have become a quest worthy of a couple of Hobbits a Dwarf and an Elf lately. And for what? To reach that one holy point where everything is “just right” to start doing something creative?

Well, guess what? It never will be. The starting point of your creativity is not on the horizon of some hardware or software project you are working on. Creativity is not going to “start to flow” when you buy “that new machine” or master this new app. It just… won’t.

The point is creativity (and productivity) starts now. Even if you have a hand-me-down five year old netbook with a wonky screen and strange stains of you-don’t-want-to-know-what on the touchpad you can start writing the next bestseller today. No extra hardware (or software) required. You only need to stop procrastinating, focus and start doing whatever you want to get done now.

For me that means that I need to stop chasing the ultimate hardware/software Walhalla, and cease to wait for that one perfect moment where ‘I will have the time’ to do whatever I want to do. Instead I’ll just hold that one video from Shia Labeouf in my mind that says… “Just DO IT”.

So what about you? What has been holding back your creativity? What has been stopping you from creating the next blogpost/podcast/screencast/digital-masterpiece? Is it the gear? Is it the time? Or is it… you? Tell us in the comments 🙂

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KW1106 PodSafe Tunnels

Nov 14

What happens when Knightwise and KD get to chatting during an early morning commute? Episode KW1106: PodSafe Tunnels.

Links

Music

Credits

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Fight Your Digital Redundancy

Nov 13

How About “Just” the iPad?

Whenever I have been pack my bag for my morning commute I get annoyed with the sheer redundancy of the stuff I take with me. Here I am packing not one, but three or four “computer capable” devices into a bag to haul off to some office somewhere.

Not only am I carrying around more devices then I could possibly operate at one time, the software on these devices is redundant as well. For some reason I cannot fathom I have 3 different versions of Microsoft Word on my person. One on my PC, One on my smartphone and one on my tablet. It is possible to dream up a situation in which I might be required to use said trifecta of Microsoft’s favorite text-blender simultaneously… but that would involve an alien invasion and myself in the unlikely role of the geek that saves the world with a bulleted list.

Blame the Lizard Brain

So why do we (still) cling to this redundancy? The answer is simple: because it feels safe. After 7 years in the tablet era we still have not come to “trust” these devices in a way we trust our beloved PC’s (which by now are seriously starting to mimmic our tablets in both appearance and behavior). God knows its not because the tablet apps are by some means sub-standard or don’t offer what we need. The one major hurdle the tablet haters could never get over was the lack of an ‘actual’ filesystem on iOS or Android. Sandboxed applications drove them insane. Yet what do we see today? PC based operating systems are – out of sheer self-preservation – starting to move in a very similar direction. Windows 10 supports installation of unified apps from its app store (in essence a sandbox) and Linux is embracing a more contained approach to applications with their container-oriented Snap packages. With the average smartphone having enough RAM and CPU power to put a PC from 2013 to shame and even the most low-end tablet having a screen resolution that matches the TV in the living room, technical shortcomings are no excuse either. Then what is it that turns us into digital packrats?

The real answer is in the fact that we only think we are carrying around redundant devices because we make them redundant.

We install Word on our phone, our tablet and our laptop because we can. We try to read a spreadsheet on our phone because we can. We even try to edit family photos on a 7 inch laptop using nothing but our stubby fingers. All because we can. Certainly not because we have to.

Somehow with the overabundant availability of identical software on different devices we have started to think that we have to click on “install” everywhere. No wonder it feels redundant.

Specialization is the Key

If we truly where to look at the real strength of each device, we would figure out what do do where pretty quickly. Short messages and communication? Phone. Watching video’s on the go or browsing through news articles while sitting on the train? Tablet. Full blown posture friendly photo editing? PC/Laptop.

You see? No more redundancy. Instead you have a sense that your devices are complementary, depending on the task you do and the situation you are in.

Don’t do a 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle with chopsticks. Don’t use a lawnmower to trim your nails. Stay away from the firehose when you want to water that delicate orchid in the living room. Each device has its use, its purpose and its strength (just like you btw). So remember that next time you feel tempted to install Powerpoint on your smartphone: (to quote commander Scott in Star Trek V) “Use the right tool for the right job!” So ask yourself: “is this really the right device for the job? And if it’s not, do it somewhere else.

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Three Can’t Miss Star Trek Fan-Fics (part 3)

Nov 10

If you haven’t read part 1, or part 2 we highly suggest you check them out!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that is a milestone for every geek. Perhaps you are a die hard fan from the early days watching Kirk and Spock trod around on wobbly sound stages trying to get it on with green aliens. Perhaps you jumped in during Voyager and still long for the moment that Seven of Nine tells you she wants to be your ‘friend with benefits’. It doesn’t matter what kind of Trekkie you are, there is never enough content to watch. The upcoming show “Star Trek: Discovery” won’t air until 2017, so what do you do in the meantime? How about diving into the world of fan fiction with some shows produced by loving fans of the Star Trek universe? There are many of them out there, in various forms of quality ranging from horrible B-movie material to tantalizing TV. We hit up YouTube and picked our top three. Our final installment is “Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar.”

Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar

We cannot finish off the list without talking about “Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar” an independent Star Trek fan production (We cannot call this a fan-fic) that has JJ Abrams and the CBS bosses lying awake at night. The show cuts in during the first “Four Year war” and the legendary battle of Axanar. It features the upcoming heroics of Garth of Izar, later featured in one of the TOS episodes as the main character. What makes the show great is not only an all star cast and a fantastic production quality but it is also depicts a very dark version of Star Trek.

Stories and episodes

No episodes have been aired yet, the only thing the world has gotten are 2 short “documentary like” vignettes (first, second) featuring an interview with the main characters in the form of a historical documentary. What might sound like a boring discovery-channel episode is actually something brilliant. The 21 minute “Prelude to Axanar” will have you turn blue from holding your breath in pure anticipation of what is to come.

Acting. The acting is top notch, this due to the fact that all of the actors are professionals who have real world experience in science fiction franchises like “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica”.

Richard Hatch (Appollo in the original series of BSG), Kate Vernon (from the BSG Reboot), Tony Todd, Gary Graham and of course J.G. ‘Martok’ Hertzler. All of them are top of the line actors will manage to grab your attention and whatever geek-DNA you have like pitbull returning from a weight-watchers class.

Sets and Special Effects

Lighting and sets (from what we have seen) are top notch. Makeup, costumes are all pro-grade . The CGI is straight out of a primetime TV show like BSG or “The Expanse”. Although its quite clear that this show runs in the original TOS timeline, the ships do resemble those in the Star Trek Reboot, known to fans as the “Kelvin” timeline. They are larger, more complex and love to blow up in a ball of spectacular fireworks.

Will it ever air

“Axanar” has the potential to be so good that CBS (who have the rights to the Star Trek TV shows) may be getting worried. So much so that at the end of 2015 “Axanar” hit with a lawsuit to stop the show from ever airing. The reason? It might steal some of “Star Trek Discovey’s” thunder. CBS’s new Star Trek Show (also a prequel to TNG) will be airing in 2017. I think I could write up a 14 page article on the ins and outs of the lawsuit but suffice to say the judge has declined CBS’s original claim that they own all things Star Trek. Fingers crossed (in the Vulcan salute)

Epilogue

Aside from these three shows there are many many Star Trek Fan-shows on Youtube. While some are of dubious quality when it comes to sets, makeup or acting, you should not be quick to judge. Each Star Trek Production, from the Primetime to B-movie quality is done by fans of the genre paying tribute to the show they love. Together with the viewers they keep the genre alive. So be nice before you post a snarky comment on their Youtube channel and remember how much time and effort they put into this. Star Trek fandom is IDIC 🙂 Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, there is no good and bad .. there is only Trek Love.

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