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.
Chances are pretty high that you are an office drone. Every day you lug your beloved laptop to the office where you happily clickety-clack your keys until quitting time. Chances are even higher that said office is a landscape office that you need to share with other office drones doing the exact same thing. This would not be a problem if there was not some sadistic trend to take away all the walls in said office and sprinkle the acoustic mayhem with people who insist on constantly shouting into their phones. You need something to drown out that audio-anarchy and it needs to be geeky.
Sure, there are a lot of audio-stations you can listen to and Spotify might be the first thing that comes to mind. But for a hardcore geek like you, it might be a little too distracting. So, aside from the fact that Spotify is just a bit too mainstream-jock-hipster for to your taste, you might like something with more ‘atmosphere’ to help you focus.
1: SomaFM – Mission Control
For this one you need to install Clementine. A great open-source cross platform audio player that comes with all the bells and whistles you might need. It plays your entire MP3 collection (should you still have one) but also ties into all the major audio streaming services. SomaFM (a streaming radio network) is one of them. Amongst some cool channels you will find the “Mission Control” channel. Yes, that Mission Control. Take some cool chill music and sprinkle in some great radio communications from NASA. Before you know it you’ll chill out while listening to some guy in the background (with the heaviest Texas accent you can imagine) telling an astronaut to “try hitting it with a hammer”.
This one is a little bit more along the same line, but youarelistening.to picks some great chill songs from Soundcloud and lets YOU mix that up with police chatter from all over the planet. So hear perps get arrested in South Africa or hear the tale of the “drunk and disorderly male caucasian” that has just fallen through the roof of his parents’ home. If you want to go beyond weird, try the ‘numbers station’ option and try to break the secret code.
3: Space sounds on YouTube
Youtube is a great place to find the strangest music. Just search for “space mix” and you will be presented with some awesome ambient mixes that will keep you entertained for hours. There are some instrumental masterpieces out there that will chill you out for 2 or 3 hours at a time.
4: 24 hours of Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Since we are on the topic of ambient sounds, let’s take it a step further and listen to 12 hours of the Starship Enterprise’s warp engines, or the engine sound of a passing snowspeeder? CrysKnife offers up some great ambient background sounds you can listen to as you code away. Weird? Yes! A great way to push out the sounds of the sales guy who is trying to peddle his grandma to an Ethiopian cow herder? Definitely.
5: Roll your own with Ambient Mixer
We close off with a great site that will cater to those who have not found anything to their liking. Ambient Mixer lets you MIX your own ambient atmosphere by playing with the dials and sliders of different sound sources to build your very own unique environment. How about a slice of Hogwarts or Hacking in the rain? Just try out one of the many atmospheric loops until you find something to your liking.
So pause that mainstream mix on Spotify and break that “panflute classic” cd into 5 razor sharp pieces. Connect to your inner geek and zone out!
1 > 0
It’s the title of a very impressive YouTube video made by Gary Vaynerchuk in which he presents you with a verbal weapon of mass destruction against any form of procrastination whatsoever. In short it breaks down to “whatever you do, it’s better then doing nothing;” and “only by doing small things do you get to the big thing.”
It has been kind of my mantra in the last couple of months. In a time of my life where I’m trying to make heads or tails of the many simultaneous “program threads” that I seem to have running in my mind. Running my own company has drastically changed my life over the last two years. It has been both a successful outlet for my creativity (I give talks about IT to entrepreneurs, which are basically stand-up versions of podcasts with slides) and work full-time as a consultant with my main client. Aside from that there are various “side projects” running around with smaller clients that require my attention. The overall result? My creative energy has been scattered across many channels and the knightwise.com website has been pushed to the wayside a little.
But aside from you guys not getting your daily dose of geekery, I have also started to loose touch with the most important part of Knightwise.com: its community. That crazy bunch of geeks across the world that I can call my friends. And for that I am truly truly sorry. Because your friendships and your support are the one thing that make Knightwise.com worth doing. So this week (after some soul searching and a long talk with both kdmurray and our resident photog Konrad) I think it is time to pick up the geek gauntlet and get cracking.
Whenever you think you are lost, just backtrack to the last waypoint that looks familiar. It’s a handy trick for not losing your way in the woods or in the 340th level of some Dungeons & Dragons game. I kinda got “lost” as a geek. Not really knowing what to do with my geeky energy any more. The blog has gone by the wayside and so have many of my geeky projects. Instead I have degenerated (yes !) into scrolling Facebook, watching TV shows and scrolling 9gag! My God, I’m almost mainstream!
One of the things that I have been listening to in the car (I do long drives to work again) have been episodes of the Daily Source Code. The ORIGINAL show that got me into podcasting way back in 2004. For those kids who are oblivious: It was a show hosted by former MTV VJ Adam Curry and marks the very beginning of what we call podcasting today. What it perfectly communicates is the raw energy that ensues when you give a geek a mic and let him talk to the world without any rules or regulations.
One of my favorite episodes (and the very first where the name “Knightwise” is mentioned in a podcast) is where Adam pops on a lapel mike and leisurely takes us on a drive to the local mall to have a coffee and check his emails. Back in the day this was called ‘a sound-seeing tour’. Today’s podcasts are mostly scripted, have a steady ‘form factor’ and sound more like satellite radio than satellite radio, but back in those days it was different.
The most important lesson that I learned from re-listening to those old shows is that the most boring, dull and mundane things might be the most fascinating to share. One of the reasons I haven’t blogged for a while is because I thought I had nothing to share. Turns out there are things that i’m working on (as small as they may seem) that might be of some importance to the listeners. Hopping back to 1>0: ANY content is better then NO content at all.
So I’m gonna turn back the clock a little to 2004 (and before) and try to share simple geeky things with you that happen in my life. The fact I got a new monitor, a little app I found to listen to audiobooks in the car, a link to a nice Star Trek fan series on YouTube and so forth. Some of it might be utterly uninteresting to you, so you can just skip it. At least its better then total radio silence. But hey… one IS greater then zero.
You’ve got seven vices and seven virtues, you also have seven dwarfs and seven riders of the apocalypse. You also have a movie called “Seven” where they cut off Gwyneth Paltrow’s head and ship it via Fedex, but that is beside the point. What is important to remember that there are also seven siblings in Samsungs Galaxy family. We got our greedy hands on one of the few models in circulation and decided to tell you all about it.
Look and feel
The S7 is a lot like Iron Man. Where the 1950’s versions of Iron Man looked bulky and edgy, the modern implementation of Iron Man is slick and smooth. Same goes for the S7. Although its the same size as its predecessor the S6, the rounded edges of the S7 make it feel just a little better to hold on to. The raised mounting of the rear camera in the S6 is gone which turns the back of the phone into a solid, unbroken slate of black. Close your eyes and roll the phone around in your hands and it will be hard for you to distinguish it from its greatest competitor, the iPhone 6.
Some things are just same-same
Aside from the size, the screen specs have not changed either compared to the S6, but with a beautiful Amoled screen with such a high resolution, why would it? The screen is packed so tight you cant distinguish the individual pixels and the colors are vibrant. Thanks to the Amoled technology black is black and you can even read the screen in bright sunlight.
Same but no same
Samsung has upped the specs on the cpu and the onboard ram (we won’t bore you with the technical details, suffice to say the phone is fast and snappy). The biggest change however is the fact that the micro SD card slot has returned. You can once again slide your little Micro SD card into your S7 to upgrade the storage capacity. Although slightly slower to respond opposed to the onboard storage, the micro SD card gives you the chance to store music, movies and more without worrying that you will ‘fill up your phone’. Because Samsung did not implement one of the latest Android features into its OS, it not possible to install apps on the micro sd card.
We are talking about the first submarine equipped with a simcard.
Just drop it in the toilet
Every week we hold a silent vigil for those moments where a loud splashing sound emerges from toilets all over the world. No, we aren’t referring to the proliferation of successful bowel movements, instead we point towards all those incidents where phones end up in the toilet. That one place where modern day technology touches that one earthly element that signals doom for many: Water.
The S7 is waterproof. When we say waterproof we aren’t talking about a couple of drops of water. We are talking about the first submarine equipped with a simcard. The S7 can stand over 20 minutes of underwatertime, more then enough for those slow to react to fish their baby out of the john when they accidentally dropped it in. We tried it (not the toilet test, just plain water) and it works indeed. The phone knows when it has been submerged and refuses to charge via the USB port until all components have dried up. Pretty impressive.
The S7 is also compatible with Samsungs gear VR, its Occulus-powered virtual reality headset. Slide the phone in and sito presto you are emerged in a VR world where you can play games, watch Netflix or literally walk around in a 360 degree movie. That is until your phone gets too hot or your battery dies out. (See our review of the Gear Vr for more info on this.)
We give the S7 an 8/10 because its a decent phone. It’s not cheap but you do get a lot of bang for your buck. The VR technology that Samsung loves to pimp is interesting but still in its infant phase.
Links: Want to know more ? We found this excellent (Dutch) video review of the S7
Call it geek envy, but sometimes you see somebody walking around with a piece of gear and you think by yourself : I want this too. No matter if you need it, or even have a use for it, you want it. Just because the other geek has it to. I regularly get a case of the “geek envies” when I see people use cool smartphones, fancy laptops or … Laptop bags. Yes: My name is Knightwise and i’m a laptop bag junkie.
My wife regularly makes fun of me when I am relentlessly drawn towards the ‘bag’ section of some store, looking for the ‘ideal geek bag’. For some reason I’ve collected several messenger bags to lug around all my gear. Yet for some reason none of them is ‘perfect’ and I’m always on the look for that “ideal bag”.
So as you might have noticed: Laptop-bag-geek-envy struck me this week after watching a couple of episodes of Mr Robot, where the hero walks around with one of these giant “Tactical backpacks” that hold his laptop. It triggered me into an hour long Amazon click-fest researching which backpack Eliot was using and what the pro’s and cons were of using a setup like that. What it basically comes down to is that there is no ‘perfect’ laptopbag because every bag has its ups and downs
Plopping one of these babies down on a table might confuse people because the don’t know if you are going to pull out an iPad or a couple of fully automatic machine guns
Tough but Rough
Picking up on the ‘Tactical Laptop bag’ that our hero uses in “Mr Robot” you run into your first problem. These rugged military grade laptop bags are very cool to cary around and basically indestructible. They make you look like a special ops member on his day off. Plopping one of these babies down on a table might confuse people because the don’t know if you are going to pull out an iPad or a couple of fully automatic machine guns. As a result having a military grade laptop bag might not be the best choice if you are in a corporate environment where a little elegance is required. So at come point you might need to choose between Rough & Tough or elegant and smart.
Roomie but bulky.
The other factor you might need to consider is the size of your laptop backpack. These things come in all shapes and sizes depending on what you want to tuck in there. Ranging from a size that can barely hold an adult tribble to a backpack that would allow you to cross the himalaya in a single go, there is a lot to choose from. Going for a backpack that is roomy might be very convenient when you want to cram in your entire mobile office for the day: Laptop, Lunchbox, extra sweater, perhaps some books, your tablet .. you name it. Some of these larger size backpacks eat it up like black holes eat stars .. the downside is that they also increase in mass. What you might end up with is a backpack that weighs a ton and is very very hard on your back and shoulders. The fact that you can keep cramming stuff in does not mean that its actually healthy to haul all of that around without the additional use of an antigrav unit or a pair or repulser lifts.
Slick but tight.
The one way to decrease the weight of your backpack is by going for something smaller. The less crap you can shove into your backpack, the better .. right ? Perhaps, but the downside here is that there is a ‘bare minimum’ of stuff you need to carry with you. Having a small and slick backpack does increase the chance that your gear does not have enough protection because there is hardly any room between the corner of your laptop and the edge of your backpack. One strategically placed ‘bump’ and you might end up with a cracked screen. The other thing that is also a risk here (or with any other backpack) is the fact that you cram in to much stuff and pressure is applied to the center of your laptop screen, making it bend as you walk around. Not something you want.
So I looked at all the pro and cons and went for something ‘in the middle’: Sufficiently geeky-and-tactical, not too big and not too small. I ended up going for the Thule Enroute 2 Blur. Like all products it is sufficiently rugged and durable to use on a daily bases. It has plenty of compartments to keep your stuff organised (I hate it when crap rattles around in my backpack) and going for the ‘Blur’ version meant it was roomy enough for my 15 inch laptop with some room to spare. The backpack has some nice adjustable straps that don’t cut into your shoulders. When it comes to size it hits the sweet spot between where I still have enough room for my gear, but am unable to pack up everything AND the kitchen sink before I leave the house. At about 99 euro’s online it was not the cheapest backpack around, but it was the only one that ticked all the boxes I mentioned above. Geeky, Roomy, Safe and slick. Its the perfect laptopbag .. until I go crave another one.
Links: Thule Enroute 2 Blur.
With the advent of the Occulus rift, a set of “virtual reality goggles” within the consumer price range, the breakthrough of Virtual Reality was imminent. Or so we thought. Turns out that VR, to many is nothing more then a gimmic and that scenes from “The lawnmower man” are far from part of our daily lives. The glasses where too expensive, the content available to niche.
The former part of that statement started to change when things like Google Cardboard came out. Basically a cardboard version of a futuristic ‘viewmaster’ with your smartphone as the screen. At an extremely low price people could dip their toes into VR-Space for the first time.
Since then some time has passed and recently Samsung has released their second iteration of “their” version of Google Cardboard : The Gear Vr. Using your high end Samsung Smartphone as a screen you pop this futuristic piece of plastic on your head and off you go.
So how does it work ?
Once ’emerged’ into Virtual-Space the Occulus app store automatically kicks in allowing you to choose a variety of activities. By ‘browsing’ through the VR app store you can install apps, games and demo video’s (some are free, some are not) and give them a try. Navigation is done by moving your head around, selecting and scrolling can be done using a touchpad on the side of the glasses.
So what’s it like ?
Although this truly an ‘early adopters toy’, it is quite surprising how immersive your experience is. The default “room” you are in to select your app and activity is a giant hall in which you can look and move around. Pop in some headphones and you get the distinct feeling that you are really ‘there’. The old saying ‘What they eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes’ is pretty accurate.
Although this truly an ‘early adopters toy’, it is quite surprising how immersive your experience is.
Any Content ?
There is some content out there like games (You can fight off the zombie apocalypse, even with an added wireless controller should you want to) You can visit the cirque de soleil (and be ON stage instead of in the crowd) or even try out your public speaking skills in a sort of ‘presentation simulator’.
A little bit of minority report.
Samsung also provides you with a “browser” that allows you to surf the internet. You can “search” using Google voice commands and browse around different pages. It becomes really cool when you can set different tabs side by side in a giant video wall. We enjoyed watching a Youtube movie this way, while having the IMDB page of the movie open on a second ‘screen’.
Everything is big !
It is hard to explain what it actually “feels” like using the glasses. First of all : Everything is big ! Since you have no sense of scale every screen looks like its about 4 meters wide and 2 meters tall. “Monitors ? Where we are going we don’t NEED any monitors.” Doc McFly would cry. A perfect example is the Netflix application that lets you sit on a virtual couch in a virtual cabin watching a giant virtual srceen. We actually managed to sit through en entire movie in this application and be surprisingly entertained.
“Monitors ? Where we are going we don’t NEED any monitors.”
So are we there yet ?
Probably not, this is still early-on technology and the fact whether this is a gadget or a tool can be best evaluated by asking the question : Would you actually use this. The answer is : For browsing and games I would use it occasionally. But I DO see me using this on a plane to watch Netflix (and chill). T
The technology is very immersive and that is also a little bit of the downside. Using this in public makes you look like a total zombie since you are completely spaced out. You don’t hear OR see ANYTHING of your surroundings. Its the antisocial teen with headphones on during a family diner, multiplied by a factor of 10. You are in VR space or in real space .. but you can never peek ‘over’ your screen.
At a 100 euro’s it is surely worth a try to play around with Virtual Reality technology AND get away from your messy room OR noisy kids. The gear VR is only compatible with selected Samsung phones and only works with content from the Occulus app BUT there is quite a bit to try out.