Take a cross platform chill pill with ‘Calm’

I’m not a big self help guy, but a little bit of lifehacking never hurt anyone. In this fast pacing world of technology it is sometimes not a bad idea to sit back and chill out just for a while. But that is easier said then done. You always have some distraction waiting for your attention, there is always that one website that you still have to check.  So how about some ‘help’ in calming down ? 

‘Calm’ for IOS helps you do just that. The app gives you the choice between the length of the relaxation session you want to have, and gradually builds that time up, the more times you use it. This helps you to go from a 2 minute meditation session way up to even a 20 minute chill session.  It comes with soothing sounds (a brook, a rainshower) and a silky feminine voice that tells you to KEEP CALM NOW !!!  Forget the “Keep Calm and … ” posters .. just “Keep Calm with Calm”. The application is free in the IOS Store but also has a ‘slider friendly’ counterpart on their website calm.com that you can access from any browser.

Calm.com is available in the iTunes store or from their website at calm.com

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Free satnav on your iPhone or Android device without a data connection.

I live in a part of Europe that is called the “Euregion” because I live at about 2 hours drive from three different countries. I go east for 20 minutes I end up in Holland. When I put the pedal to the metal for another 30 minutes I”m in Germany. When I go south for about 90 minutes .. I end up on Luxembourg  Its cool ! The downside is that when I go “beyond Belgian Borders” I run into very very expensive roaming charges for my data connection. So when trying to use my Android or Ios smartphone for my GPS navigation. Sure : I can use Google Maps in Belgium .. But if I would do so abroad , I would be better off buying a house wherever I get lost instead of finding my way back home on Google Maps.

Navfree GPS is available for IOS and Android and gives you the ability to download the maps of the Benelux area, but also Spain, the US and many other countries. Its free because it uses the open source alternative to the Google Maps called “OpenMaps”. Download the app of the country you need and watch as your wife/girlfriend/husband and your smartphone go head to head whether its left our right. (Because you also get Voice Navigation .. for FREE !)

Its open source, its free, its a GPS and it does not use an expensive data connection. If it was wrapped in Bacon I would probably eat it.

Download for IOS.

Download for Android. 

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Can listening to podcasts get you a job in IT ? : The interview.

A couple of months ago I was interviewed by Peter Nikolaides, former host of the Fresh Ubuntu podcast and Tetris World Champion in the last Burundian Para-Lympics (Google told me so). The interview was part of a series that Peter started on podcasters (and other internet superstars) and what they actually did for a living. As a rule of thumb I don’t blog about work, so the names of companies and involved parties have been changed to protect the innocent ( Honey ! Where’s mah Sooopah Suit  ? ) But the interview might give you some insights on how and where you can find the knowledge and experience to turn your hobby into your day job. 

Download  episode 12 of “Not speeding in reverse” with yours truly.

 

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Get the command line in Google Chrome.

We have told you plenty of times about the cool things you can do from the Linux command line. From building your own backup script to using an encrypted SSH tunnel at work to chat to your buddies on IRC on your remote EEE-pc that you glued to the underside of your kitchen tablet at home : There is nothing the command line cannot do. As a slider its always important to have that command line with you, where ever you are. So instead of lugging around a Usb thumbdrive with Putty on it, or fighting the terminal app in OSX .. Why not put it in your browser ? 

“Secure Shell” is a great chrome extension that does just that. An SSH Client in your browser enabling you to connect to any machine running an SSH server (Your Mac or your Linux machine at home) Its super light, fast and  moderately functional (it doesn’t come with ALL the bells and whistles, but hey). The cool thing is, because Chrome syncs your settings and extensions on any machine, you have that shell with you anywhere. So I’ve locked the tab with the Secure Shell extension on my browser bar and have the same command line interface on any system I use, should I need to connect to a remote system. Its free and slider friendly. Just the way we like it.

Download Secure Shell here.

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Zombies, Mechs and plenty of gore. This must be Jake Bible’s doing !

The great thing about the combination of eBooks and Podcasting is the fact that we as a podcast listening community are exposed to talented writers who would otherwise go unnoticed by classic, money grabbing publishing agents. Through the art of “storytelling” great writers like Scott Sigler and JC Hutchins have gathered traction and readers before a single page was ever printed with their great works like 7th Son and Earthcore.

The trinity of great indie writers who have followed this path has been completed with the addition of author Jake Bible and his Dead Mech trilogy. Initially published as an audio podcast series, Dead mech deals with a post apocalyptic world populated by brave solders in walking super tanks called “Mechs”, hords of undead zombies and religious zealots in fast moving ground vehicles. Dead Mech was a blast to listen to, Jakes ability to paint a world that can only be described as a mix between the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, Waking Dead and Mad Max , puts you right into the action. With the completion of the Dead Mech novel, Jake has brought us 2 more books in the series : The “Aphex” trilogy tells you the rise and fall of a highly technological world into post nuclear (and eugenic) apocalypse and how humankind tries to stay alive. Jakes writing is invigorating, graphic, and touches the “no holds barred” style of writing this kind of story requires.   Let us unleash upon you one of our very own zombies who we have genetically engineered to read the final book in the series. (I am still soaked with blood and soot from reading the first two) : Zombie Lord Drachenblut.

Metal and Ash is the sequel to Dead Mech and The Americans. How is it that Metal and Ash is a sequel to 2 books at one time? Very simple Dead Mech and The Americans were not sequels but as the author Jake Bible says they were sidequels. Both of these stories happened simultaneously in the timeline of the Apex Trilogy.
In this final installment of the Apex Trilogy The Americans and their isolated kin of the wasteland come face to face. This is not a time for happy family reunion 400 years overdue. The American forces of Europe having nearly been wiped out of existence are being chased across the Pacific ocean pursued by the power hungry forces of The Three in hopes of rendezvousing with their compatriots of The Wasteland. As the battle for the fate of The Americans, the Mech Pilots, and the entire wasteland, comes to its final hours twists lay at every turn. New alliances are forged, old family ties are renewed, and questions are answered but more are left unanswered as the body count grows. People we have become attached to are detached from their limbs and used as snacks for the living dead or causalities of the game of power put into motion by the forces of The Three.  
Metal and Ash is a blood fueled and flesh feed conclusion to the Apex Trilogy but it is far from the end of what we will see of The Wasteland and its inhabitants or the world that has been revealed to the Mech pilots. This book grabs you by the entrails and drags you through this post apocalyptic landscape of tech and the living dead.  

Copies signed in blood from The Americans, Dead Mech and Metal and Ash are available for purchase here.

For the illiterate ones among you : You might be interested in the audiobook version of Dead Mech. After listening to it you might feel inclined to learn how to read , just to finish the two other books in the Aphex trilogy. The great thing about these books is that you do not need to fear the zombies : The obviously are craving human brains .. and that makes you perfectly safe.

 

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“No happily ever after ..” as Google reader gets shut down.

When I opened up my window to cyberspace this morning, the news was all over the web : Google announced the termination of Google Reader starting June 1st. This extremely handy service that has been a major source of information and content filtering for me over the last couple of years , is about to return a ‘404 not found’ page when summer rolls along. Suggestions for alternatives are abundant and possible “replacements” for Google Reader see their servers crumbling because of the massive exodus off yet another Google product that is sinking.  As I fret to find out a way to sustain my automated information scripts .. I fearfully glance towards Feedburner and their single basket holding all my podcast feeds (and the only link to my subscribers).  As cries of outrage (in the form of animated gif images) fill the web .. the sets in : The cloud fairy tale has no “happily ever after”.

After the collapse of the web 2.0 bubble and the zillions of startups that had no sustainable business model (aside from burning venture capital) we thought that “The Cloud” had come of age. Surely the big players like Microsoft and Google with their countless free services would be a “Safe bet” for our internet needs ? So we laughed at the nerds who ran their own mail servers. We scuffed our local ISP’s with their POP3 accounts and shoved our entire digital communication stream towards Yahoo, Microsoft or Google. As these giants lured us in with extra services and functionality .. that “webmail” account soon started to become a part of an ever growing ecosystem in which we entrusted our data and our workflows. Pretty soon “Sign up here” became the surrogate for “install now” and we watched our laptops turn into nothing more then pimped out Thin Clients. Office in the cloud, Mail in the cloud, Storage in the Cloud, Backups in the Cloud.. everything was possible and we thought it would last forever.

But there is no such thing as happily ever after.

As a cross platform slider who moves from OS to OS (and from device to device) the cloud was a great solution. The downside is that it is not one that is going to last forever.  Somewhere, cloud based solutions from big players got the status of being eternal, but they are not. Google Reader brings another name to the list of soon to be terminated services, Hotmail and MSN Messenger being other A-listers here.  As we signed up to yet another free service we boldly shouted : ‘If they ever make us pay .. we will leave’.  Today I hear people offer cold hard cash to keep their Google Reader (or IGoogle service) alive.

So not every fairy tale has a happy ending and you don’t always get a chance to pay. Sometimes free services don’t stop becoming free, they stop becoming anything. Think about it next time you sign up for an online backup server to house the pictures of your newborn, or as you drag your tax papers onto Dropbox. Will they still be there tomorrow, and if not .. where can YOU go ?

 Thus we dig frantically through our mailbox for the address of that geek who runs his own mail server , we hope its not too late to ask him if he ever built an RSS Reader on his own machine.  For as this grey cloud crawls across the sky .. we know Google Reader isn’t going to be in it much longer.

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kw506 : Sliders academy part 2 : Linux Everywhere.

We take up part 2 of our Sliders Academy series and take the Linux system we installed in lesson one a step further. Follow the tutorial and learn how to connect to your Linux machine from any operating system and with multiple users. Build your own terminal server or “slide” from Windows to OSX while taking your personal Linux desktop with you anywere. Using the NX Server and the NX client we slide another powerful tool into your Sliders toolbag.

Shownotes.

 Part one of the series : Installing the Ubuntu system.

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Get Metro on your Android device with Launcher 8

I know ! It’s like Windows 8 week here at Knightwise.com, but you know when I go and investigate something new for you guys and girls.. I dive deep.  A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to get a hold of a Nokia Lumia 920. Its a pretty impressive phone. Well built, fast, and also substantially heavy. The kicker came when it was lying down on the table (screen off) and I noticed a similarity between this black 920 and a line from 2001 a Space Odyssey. Pointing at the device with all of my nerd-enthusiasm I proclaimed ” Oh my god .. its full of stars” .. The dumbfounded look I got from the owner confirmed that this man had no idea I was referring to the great line in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.  Oh Well.

I did however leave the table with a sense of envy to the nice tiled metro interface on his phone. Clutching my Android enabled Aladdin lamp (I have an LG Nexus 4) I knew that the Android Marketplace would be able to make my wish come true. Rub the lamp and …

Tadaa : Launcher 8. The Metro interface for your Android device. If you think this would be a cosmetic overlay lagging down your phone in favor of showing off to your friends .. you are wrong. Its a cute little app that does play the part of “launcher” quite well. You get a tweakable tile interface (with ‘live tiles’) and a “vertical launcher” for all of your applications. The app is free and lets you play around with something highly resembling Metro on your Android phone. Give it a spin and confuse your friends.

Link : Launcher 8

 

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Why I like Windows 8 (And why you should not care).

As I’m punching out this blogpost on my older but trusty HP Pavilion dm1, I’m somehow overpowered by a sense of nostalgia and … irony. I remember getting into computers years ago, starting out on machines like these (back in the days they were home built beige boxes) using a predecessor (or should I say forefather) of the operating system that is running today. The last couple of years I have swayed from that path of using a ‘Redmond Based’ operating system on my primary machines in favor of the one created in Cupertino. The last year or so I have even moved away from that one, to start using the ‘pengiun’ full time. For those of you baffled by my ramblings : I’m a slider. I move from operating system to operating system and use the one that works for me. From Android to Ios, from Windows to Osx to Linux … and today .. back to Windows again.

The new Windows 8 Metro interface was not something that stalked in quietly in the night. The press had seen this one coming and had been tooting their horns on how “different” it was to Windows 7. The Redmont company had had rough times. The ‘Vista disaster’ had left its mark and even though Windows 7 was a descent project, the flame of innovation was lost in Balmers ranks. Windows was going the way of the Blackberry … or were they ?

Windows 8 brought a unified ‘metro’ interface that was radically different then anything they had done before. Not only did they launch a version for the PC, there was also a unified interface for the mobile world and their own tablet device. Microsoft being Microsoft did make a simple strategy like this very complicated to explain and pretty soon you had Windows 8 Pro, RT, Phone and we even thought we would get an oreo-flavored version of the OS sometime later this years.

But never mind all that : Windows 8 is here and this week I decided to dive in deep and install it on one of my laptops. After poking it with a stick in a VM on my Linux machine, I was confident (or should I say ‘Daring’ ) enough to try out a full install. And I must say : I’m quite impressed with Windows 8. Because it is radically different then anything Microsoft has done the last couple of years. It is BOLD ! The Metro interface takes some getting used to, and everywhere I hear people spouting tips and tricks on how to get “passed” it and crawl back to the Start Menu .. but I say to you : Embrace it. Give it a try for a couple of days and give your human brain (that has been accustomed with the Start Button approach for years) a chance to adapt. Because even beyond the ‘in your face’ start menu the operating system preforms fast enough and lets you do what you want to do. So as a passionate Mac and Linux user I dare to say : I like Windows 8.

And now for me to tell you why :

Windows 8 has one specific quality that is very VERY important to an operating system. You hardly know its there. Once you are working in your application full screen (or in a window) you do not notice the operating system is there. When you NEED it, all you need to hit is the Windows button to bring up the menu , or poke the sides of your screen with your mouse. And the rest is business as usual. Using cross platform applications like Chrome, Firefox, Thunderbird don’t even give you a clue that there is in fact a ‘different’ os running under the hood then the Osx or Linux flavour of your choice.

So whats the deal then ?

Human kind is genetically designed to gang up on a certain individual and make fun of him. Microsoft-bashing is SO OLD , that its first instances are now the subject of historical re-enactments at county fairs. Its easy to bash on Microsoft .. We always did, so why not now. The problem with this approach (and the scuffing of anything that is ‘different’) is the fact that it is somewhere based on bias. And bias is a self-inflicted restriction of personal freedom. You decide to dislike something (or some-one) without getting to know it.

A lot of this bias is based on the fear for change. The uproar when Ubuntu decided to go for the Unity interface, has still not died down. The rage against Microsoft because of the Metro interface will surely echo into eternity. The reason for this ? We are afraid of change. We are the generation that is in the transition between the ‘Classic OS’ with the tiled windows (not Windows) and the start buttons. You can find the back in rock-paintings of the very first version of Xerox-OS through many versions of both Windows and Linux. But that ship has sailed. We are going to have to adapt and learn how to work with our computers differently. The age of the “visible” OS is over and with the advent of ‘full screen applications’ comes the clear message that the OS is but a means .. not a goal.

So put down your pitchforks and step away from the angry mob to take a good look at Windows 8. A product from a very ‘old’ company that has been bold enough to innovate and to change. To bring something to market that is not perfect (it has its flaws) , but DIFFERENT from the competition. And in times of economic crisis that takes balls.

And before you decide to burn ME on the stake for my heretics .. let me round up and get out of here. Computers are about YOU. They are the enablers of your digital power. They are coated with the fine slime of an operating system that should facilitate the smooth interaction between you and your applications. You applications should be your tool set to interact with your Data .. and whatever you do with that data should be directly tied to whatever personal goal you have. Nowhere .. nowhere in this process should you hinder yourself by making an uninformed choice why you should not want to use X or Y. Computers are about YOU .. not about computers.

So let my slide back to another computer lying around the house. Whether that be my Macbook air running Ubuntu, My Macbook Pro running Mountain Lion. I might get a call on my LG Nexus 4 (running Android) or pick up my book where I left off on my iPad .. I don’t care .. an neither should you. Windowss 8 might be your thing, or not (you should at least try it) As for me it has one good quality of a good operating system : it is invisible. In the end I forget what device runs what OS .. in the end it does not matter anymore.

Pitchforks, angry mobs and stakes in the comment section 🙂

 

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The Sky is the limit with Skydrive and ‘office for free’.

You have heard us rave and rant about several “Office” alternatives on the Knightwise.com blog many, many times. To be honest, anything that could get us away from the highly OS-centered clusterf*ck that was called ‘Office’ was a good excuse for an article. We’ve taken you on journeys to the cloud and explore GoogleDocs, we have given you amazing alternatives like Openoffice and Libreoffice .. we have even herded you towards the command line to type out your contribution to this existential plain using a command line only application. Let’s face it  : Ever since that nosy paper clip told us like it “LOOKED” like we were writing a letter .. we have gone off the deep end. .

So to be consistent we are going to do something completely different today. We are going to chase you back into the cloud towards the plains of Redmont to get the most out of you free skydrive. Yes, that magical place in the cloud where you can store your favorite cartoons of Bill and Balmer dancing in pink tutu’s, that place where you store those “pie in the sky”-charts away from the wretched claws of your dying harddrive .. that place .. that you have hardly visited after opening up an account 6 months ago. However .. that is about to change because we are about to tell you some cool things you can do .. with your skydrive (aside from storing documents in the cloud .. of course) 

Create documents : The coolest feature that Microsoft would like you to not know about is that you can create and edit documents in your skydrive for free using the web based versions of Office.  This is a pretty spiffy alternative for those among you who don’t want to spend the 100 dollars a year on Microsofts new SUBSCRIPTION based model of office, but still won’t go that far as to use GoogleDocs or another product.

Share and collaborate with others : Just like Google Docs skydrive gives you the ability to work together with others as you are writing the next Twilight-killer novel. Because you still want a Social life you can use some granular security settings to define who you want to be able to access those documents.

Access files on your home computer : For this one your computer needs to be ON and needs to be a Windows machine running the skydrive client. You can log into the skydrive web interface and rummage around on your home harddrive without ever having to leave wherever you are at that very moment. (That IS the whole point of working remotely.)

So you ready to get started ? Get your skydrive account here and dive into this PCWORLD article on “Getting started with Skydrive” and embrace the power of clippy once more.

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