KW1606 – Storytime: Joplin Edition

A quick mini-podcast this week inspired by the Knightwise.com community and a discussion over on the Discord.

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KW1605 – Data and the Erosion of Privacy

On this week’s walk Knightwise presents some food for thought about how we manage our private information online, and how those managing our social networks manage us as a result.

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KW1604 – Linux for a Living

For two decades the era of “Linux on the Desktop” has been just around the corner. This week Knightwise takes us through a discussion of how he’s using Linux to drive some tasks for work, and how the pandemic-driven changes of 2020 might have helped push more Linux to the forefront.

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KW1603 – We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Transmitters

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Podcasting has always been a way for those who don’t otherwise have a platform, to get out and share what’s on their mind, share their knowledge and experiences, and do it without having to buy your own small-town radio station. This week Knightwise takes us on another walk through the Belgian countryside to tell you why you should record your own podcast.

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KW1602 – Retro Computing

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This week on the podcast Knightwise takes on the topic of retro computing. Whether virtualized or involving the resurrection of old hardware here are some ideas to put some older tech to use for you in 2021.

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A bit like Bullock: How life is a little like the movie “The Net”.

Computer that asks if you want to online.

You might be a middle-aged digital dinosaur if you still remember this movie but, back in 1995 “The Net” (Starring Sandra Bullock) was a bit of a hit movie depicting a digital recluse coder who gets her identity stolen and actually has to go outside … to get it back.

The movie raised a lot of chuckles in the theatre as it depicted the daily life of Angela Bennet. Working from home fulltime she hardly leaves the house and orders everything online. From pizza to groceries and from software to styling products (just check out that hair). She communicates online with her clients who have never met her in real life and don’t know what she looks like. It was an exaggerated depiction of a lifestyle that would, despite the modern day possibilities of the internet, never become mainstream .. right ?

Flash forward a quarter of a century.

Flash forward a quarter of a century and look around. After day 300 of “working from home” I finish up my umpteenth videoconference with a team that I have never ever met in person. Unlike in “The Net” I do know what they look like but only as far down as their bellybuttons. The chime of my video doorbell rings and delivery guy number 3 of the day drops off another package. Via the Ring app on my phone I instruct him to just leave it on the doorstep. I wait to open the door until he drives off. I have truly mastered the art of consumption-without-human-contact.

Most of the conversations I have (aside from those with my dog and my spouse) are also with computers. I ask Google for the weather, tell Siri to play Retrowave music in the bathroom and try to convince Alexa to disclose the the actual age of Jennifer Connelly. The Netflix computer algorithm suggests I should watch some Spanish sitcom tonight and at about 10pm my Smartwatch tells me I should go to bed if I want to be rested tomorrow morning.

I’m worse than Bullock.

Looking back at my day, I’m not “like” Bullock in the net .. I’m even worse. The combination of the technology at hand and the current Covid Crisis has decreased the “face to face” human interactions significantly. We mail-order everything online, communicate digitally instead of face to face and are (almost) perfectly happy with the convenience. Sure, right now its because pandemic is sweeping the globe, and sneezing within a five yard radius from other people is considered extremely rude .. But still… Will things ever go back to “normal”?

This probably isn’t normal.

The answer is: Probably not. Even the biggest internet-hater has now tasted the sweet nectar of home delivery and thanks to working from home, none of us will ever need to wear pants again (maybe thats a bit strong). But I hope we don’t forget the value of human interaction. Buying something else because they are “out of stock” at the store helps you discover new products. Waiting in line at the restaurant gives you the opportunity to meet new people. Convenience is one thing, but I hope we all are social animals at some point. So when all of this covid stuff is over I thrive to go outside, shop “realtime”, meet people face to face and do all the inefficient “analogue” stuff that doesn’t take place behind a screen. If only so nobody can steal my identity 🙂

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The Tegos Tapes: lesser known work by Vangelis.

With the death of Rutger Hauer yesterday, I was reminded of the great work this Dutch actor has done over the years. One of the movies that of course springs to mind immediately with me (and all fellow geeks around me) must be “Blade Runner”. A majestic movie from director Ridley Scott that is an absolute must-see if you have one molecule of Geek Dna in your body.

What makes the movie so fantastic aside from the great cinematography is of course the music. The soundtrack written and composed by Vangelis is probably one of the most memorable and awe -inspiring elements of the movie. If you take away all the actors and even the storyline of Blade Runner (Which is based on the underwhelming novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) and you would be left with JUST the music and the shots of the scenery? It would STILL be a good movie.

Vangelis as a composer has done some amazing things: Ranging from the epic soundtrack of BladeRunner to popular tracks like “Chariots of Fire” and writing the soundtrack to not one but two space missions. (Mithodea and Rosetta). Both fantastic albums.

Created as a soundtrack for the instructional tapes for a surgeon

But I like to dig around for the obscure, so in my quest for some “lesser known” material I found “The Tegos Tapes” A great collection of previously unreleased material. Created as a soundtrack for the instructional tapes for a surgeon (Yes, Good old Vangelis did not shy away from the occasional Schnabble) they have not been released as an album but do contain some amazing tracks. I’ll let you in on track number 1 for you to enjoy.

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Everything but the Oink

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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The Many Faces of Reddit

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

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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