Do just about everything with a PDF (online)

Pdf’s: We love them, right? They are our favourite cross platform way to replace paper and save trees. That is, as long as it is a passive experience. Like just reading whats on the page, perusing the manual, consuming the content. But when you need to edit them it kinda goes downhill from there.

Well, not entirely: Simple tasks like signing and annotating PDFs has become a lot easier these days. Most browsers (like for example Edge on the desktop and safari on mobile) let you squiggle away with your pen or your mouse and sign your autograph (or an offensive stick figure) under any document.

But whenever you want to go one step beyond its a world of hurt. Before you know it, a simple query on Google to “ split pdf” takes you down a wormhole of costly apps, Adobe subscriptions and if you click deep enough: services that require a human sacrifice to merge 2 documents together.

A good thing I found ilovepfd.com. A free, online browser based service that lets you do just about anything to a pdf aside from the horizontal chacha. Great cross platform stuff. Love it.

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KWTV 002 – Running graphical Linux apps on Windows 11.

The first installment of our Live TV show where we talk about the stuff, geeks love to love.

LINKS

DISCORD

The action is happening over at our Discord server: Join by clicking this link

CREDITS

  • Live recording by Knightwise.

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KWTV 001 – Make Time, Prologue, Jason Scott, Axanar and Classic transformer art.

The first installment of our Live TV show where we talk about the stuff, geeks love to love.

LINKS

DISCORD

The action is happening over at our Discord server: Join by clicking this link

CREDITS

  • Live recording by Knightwise.

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Run your own Audible service with Prologue

Prologue

I love to listen to audiobooks when I have the time. Nothing is more enjoyable than being sucked into a story read by a good narrator and tearing through the pages of a book with the tips of my earlobes as I’m mowing the lawn or working out.

There are plenty of ways to do that on your phone of course and some are more tedious then others. You can download the audiofiles to you phone and use some kind of audio player (tedious) OR subscribe to an audio book service like Audible to ‘stream’ your books to your mobile device. (While they nickle-and-dime you into poverty one month at a time for books you don’t really ‘own’).

For a while now I have been looking into a way of streaming the audiobooks, documentaries and podcast series I have on my home server. A valid alternative was of course Plex. The reliable home server for streaming whatever content you have to whatever device you have. I played around with the standard ‘Plex’ client but was a bit annoyed at the fact that it’s not optimised for audiobooks. While out and about it would lose the connection to the server and forget the place I left off in the middle of the audiofile. (Not handy).

But by some serendipitous googling I came across “Prologue” in the App store: A fully fledged audiobook client for Plex . It’s quite easy to work with: Install it on your phone, log into you Plex account and point it at the folder where your audio library resides. It will index the audiofiles per folder and bob is your uncle. The free version of the app even allows you to either stream OR cache your audiofiles locally for those moments where your connection might be a bit on the spotty side. Additional features also include variable speed settings and all the dingdongs you expect from an audiobook player.

In short: I love this: It gives me the functionality and convenience of a streaming service like Audible but still allows me to “own” my audiobooks. But who says I need to stop there. Prologue is perfect to stream that downloaded collection of a podfaded podcast, or that audio rip you made from a Youtube documentary. The possibilities are plentiful. Get Prologue in the Apple (and Android) store today.

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Lifehack: 3 secrets of resilient people.

Yesterdays workout at the gym had me on the prowl for a new ‘random’ podcast episode about no particular topic. I had just re-installed the Google Podcast app in order to be able to cast my podcasts to my office speaker, when I came across a Ted-Talk daily talking about the 3 secrets of resilient people. Resilience is something we need these days. I look towards the south, where only a few miles away, towns were swept away by flash floods and people lost everything in the blink of an eye. It takes resilience to pick yourself up and continue. Lucy Home, the speaker of this short but powerful speech was a trained resilience therapist an thought she had it all figured out, until she lost her daughter in a fatal car crash and had to “move on” with her life. She gives a couple of valid insights on how to “train” your mind and your mindset to be able to “bounce back” from adversity.

One tip in particular stood out: How to deal with the perception of ‘Danger’.

To paraphrase: our minds are much better attuned to “registering and remembering” danger than happiness. It was essential in primitive times when danger was close and lethal. Today we are bombarded with sensational news of danger all around us: Newspapers going for scary headlines, the next “ohmygod” clickbait around the corner. Our reptile brain however is unable to distinguish ‘perceived’ threats from ‘actual’ threats and is (on a subconscious level) afraid of ALL the things we read online. I come back to the age-old mantra of “curating the library of your mind’ and trying to tune the information streams you consume so they don’t ruin your mood (or your perception of happiness) and it was pretty cool to find topic touched on in this very short but informative TED talk. Have a listen and ask yourself “how resilient am I?”

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Indiana Online: Digital archeology on the BBS.

Maybe its because i’m getting older but, for some reason I just love to play around with old technology. It might be a sign of age and nostalgia, it might be the direct result that the current digitital landscape is just too damn distracting and high-paced to get anything done. A lot of people go towards Yoga and Mindfullness to “slow things down”. I drag up an old computer or an older piece of tech to get my mind out of the ratrace from time to time.

As a result I’ve been toying around with BBS’s lately (Bulletin Board Systems). Ancient tech from before the internet existed. It was Jason Scotts documentary on the BBS that got me curious about this tech that existed even before I even got my very first computer. It was interesting to watch how people used limited technologies to build communities and create art. Pure nostalgia. Or was it ?

Lately a new BBS documentary has popped up on Youtube explaining the art and the allure of BBS and how they are coming back into fashion. The high paced/low privacy of modern Social Media outlets has reached a level of frustration with bold older users and younger digi-peepz that they turn away from the Facebooks and the Twitters and are going ‘back to the bbs’. The great thing about the new documentary is that it does not talk about “the old days” but instead shows you what BBS’s are still alive today and how to connect to them. I am actively following the documentary and have even managed to “get online” onto one of the BBS’s and have been enjoying reading and replying to messages of total strangers.

Aside from the soothing command-line-only interface there is another allure to the BBS: Anonimity. The freedom of talking to strangers about a variety of topics without knowing anything about them. Opposed to Facebook that takes away the myth of anonimity straight away by exposing your every detail. So it’s an interesting passtime. Just like the first forums, ICQ and IRC, I get to sit behind my “Knightwise” avatar and shout at the world. I’ll keep you apprised of my adventures as I use my monstrously heavy specced gaming machine to connect to a 40 euro Raspberry Pi in order to dail into an obsolete piece of tech. Enjoyment lies in the little things they say.

Links

Jason Scotts documentary: https://youtu.be/Dddbe9OuJLU

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Windows finally gets a decent command line.

terminal

I love spending time in the terminal, but you guys know that by now. The clean ascii interface helps me focus and keeps my jittery mouse-hand away from clicking yet another random site filled with modded transformer toys and loose whatever concentration I have left.

There are multiple command line apps you can find all over the place. The best are found on Linux distro’s, you can find some cool ones on OSX (iTerm2) but on Windows it used to be a little disappointing. Now I know working with command line applications feels like you are going back to the 80’s, but that doesn’t mean your command line interface app should look like that. I mean, type “CMD” in Windows and be Marty McFried back into the time of Windows 95 because that was the last time the Windows command line interface got an upgrade. It looks old, feels old and acts like a geriatric citizen who just had his sleep meds.

If you say “use putty” instead i’ll scream. That app also hasn’t seen the light of modern-day interfaces in 15 years and reminds me you install from some Windows 98 Shareware Cd Rom. Frustrated I have found a worthy alternative in the form of MobaXterm that lets you at least tweak the interface and provide you with handy tools like saving your session keys and doing X-forwarding. Nice!

But I got my hands on the new Windows Terminal Preview. The next iteration of the Windows Terminal command that gives you access to multiple terminals at once. Powershell, classic terminal and a direct link to your WSL installation of Linux that you put on that machine. Each terminal instance to be tweaked with your favorite settings, colors and setups. Love it !

For old farts you can even add some retro effects should you want to but I advise against it. All it lacks is an easy keyboard shortcut (CTRL-ALT T) to open up the terminal window and I’m good to go. So if you are on WIndows and want a stab at the terminal, go right ahead and try your own copy of the Terminal Preview here.

Links.

Find out more HERE.

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Back to Blogs

Pencil drawing of Don Quixote

There is so much news on the internet and social media and its all packed with fear. I don’t even know what I need to be worried about first’

— Years and Years —

‘There is so much news on the internet and social media and its all packed with fear. I don’t even know what I need to be worried about first’. It’s a line from the first episode of the TV show “ Years and Years”. The show depicts a UK family as they progress through the decades starting in 2020 and how technology and world events impacts their lives. The quote rang true, especially one year into the current pandemic. A little more then a year ago we were “sent to work from home” and the world changed. I had high hopes of this “new world” where hours of senseless commuting would be replaced by geeky activities, learning, sports and so on. To be honest .. it hasn’t quite turned out that way. Today I sometimes feel we live in a world filled with a plethora of data sources competing for our attention and trying to influence us to read, click, hunker down and consume. Facts no longer matter and rumors are just as good as long as they sell. Social media and media outlets are filled with misinformation, sensationalism and fear. The screens that I live behind seem to be saturated by two things: Work and Angst.

As a response I flee into the disconnected world of my Kindle and have read quite a few books over the last year. Not as much non-fiction and self-improvement as I would like, but at the end of a 10+ hour day my brain is just cooked and looking for an escape: Neuromancer, Game of Thrones, Dune, the Expanse, Seveneves … My mind has tried to escape the escape velocity of reality many a time only to achieve a temporal orbit around a myriad of realities.

Upgrading my mind, increasing my knowledge, working out, meditating.. Whenever I do find the time I find my personal battery dangerously depleted and fall into a unruly slumber before I can complete couting back from 10.

Diving into cyberspace I try to escape those gruesome mainstream media outlets (and even the major tech sites) because of their constant one-up manship on preaching doom, gloom and the fact that the internet is turning into a totalitarian societies favorite monkeywrech. I peruse youtube video’s on how to connect to BBS Sites. Find sites where you can download 20 year old Mac games and hunt for blogs and podcasts of likeminded geeks who just talk about what they are tinkering with. Much like I used to do back in the day that I still had time and energy left at the end of the day.

I feel guilty because of that. Because all those hours of “extra time” that I have in the day somehow did not go into creating content, doing podcasts, geeking out. I have come to see that a lot of what I do for Knightwise.com is not only for the community, but is also self care. Alternating a busy day with being creative, making content and connecting with others is a way to “recharge” for me. So I will do my best to do so again, to find that balance between real and cyberspace where I have thrived of the last years. To fight the fudd and geek out.

So bear with me as I turn ‘Knightwise.com’ back into something it used to be so many years ago. A combination of a tech blog, an online diary and a place where likeminded people can come learn, connect and relate. A place where you can follow along how I let technology work for me and an inspiration (or a warning) on how to do all things tech (or how not to).

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The return of the penguin.

Working from home used to be a novelty: Something new, something different. Gone were the commutes or waiting for paint to dry while stuck in traffic, we could rule the world from our home office. It was all still just temporary .. right ? Fast forward a couple of months and in month number 9 of the telework-marathon, things started to sink in: Our home office is no longer a temporary office, its going to be our ‘primary’ office.

And that “primary office” also houses a “primary workstation”. That one workhorse that you use 8+ hours a day to get your own geek on or to connect to the cloud services of the client. What I started to notice was that that machine no longer HAD to run Windows. We all know that by now our “Browser” is an operating system, so it doesn’t really matter WHAT you run under the hood, or do you?

Linux does have some perks Windows just doesn’t have

Turns out it does, aside from running 10+ tabs in 2 different browsers, I do wanted my machine to do something extra. Chat a little on IRC, mount and ssh share on a remote server, do some Rsync. Something Linux could do in a jiffy, Windows could … not.

So for fun (and to mix things up a little in this very boring lockdown) I treated challenged myself to “run the show” from a Linux machine for a day .. and it actually worked out pretty fine.

Aside from never having to wear pants, we can also run any OS we want.

The combination of working remotely for the client (99% cloud based systems) and having my own company’s systems being cross-platform friendly means that a 2009 iMac with an SSD drive running Ubuntu can be my daily driver should I want to. So aside from the fact we never have to wear pants to work again, we can now also run just about any OS we want.

9+ year old Mac Mini ? Shove in an SSD, some extra Ram, Boot some Linux on it and take it to work

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Messing with Macs.

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to pick up a couple of old Macs from a friend. I’ve been collecting some retro machines over the last couple of months, tinkering with them to relax from the long days of lockdown home working. One of the items on wish list was a a bondi-blue G3 Powermac. The iconic tower with the milky semi-transparent casing and pretty blue/green front. Except for misplaced nostalgia, there was no real good reason to preserve it as a working machine (I have a couple of G4”s running OS9 and OSX) so I did the unspeakable: I gutted it.

Hoist is pretty impressed with his cleanup of the whole rig.

A screwdriver, a couple of pliers and some pent-up frustration from the workweek was all I needed to turn rip out the insides of the machine, until I had but an empty shell left. Some more tinkering and I had even removed the plastic handles and sidepanels that I unceremoniously dumped into the dishwasher for a good clean. A couple of hours later I had a beautiful (empty) G3 tower.

But to use it only for decorative purposes would be a waste of space. I looked at the corner of my desk where a switch and a couple of raspberry Pi’s had been forming a tangle of cables that looked like a pool of barf from the flying spaghetti monster. So, I arranged everything nicely into the old case and closed it up.

Grapple is far from impressed with Hoist’s shoddy work.

The end result of my “trojan horse” is a happy spouse (no more clutter) + a decorative machine that now houses about 5 times the processing power (even more I think) then it used to by the addition of a couple of pi’s. Whenever I add another one of my favourite single board computers to my collection, it too will find a home inside this classic enclosure.

Re-use, Re-Cycle, Re-Vive.

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