What apps do you prefer on your platform ? Third party apps or Native apps ? We go through the pro’s and cons of both in today’s video-rant.
Driving in the car, I ponder what new smartphone I could get and the bizarre differences in prices and specs that you can find on the android phone market. I pose the important question: Flagship or Midrange ? What is the perfect phone for a geek.
More then meets the eye! It’s the tagline for the classic Transformer series and also quite fitting for today’s blog about ‘security through obscurity’ when it comes to .. your laptop bag. You guys know i’m kind of a bag-man. I love my laptop bags, backpacks, messenger bags cases etc.
Most expensive laptop bags scream: “STEAL ME! Expensive stuff inside”
I have quite the collection (mostly Thule and Crumpler bags) and can spend quite a bit of time deciding which carry-bag is going to be appropriate for my daily mission on the road. Lately I have been traveling a lot via public transport and I started to notice something: Most expensive laptop bags scream: “STEAL ME! Expensive stuff inside”. It might be your company issues “stock” HP or Dell laptop bag (Ugh, I hate those) OR your pretty expensive hipster PC backpack that gets you into trouble. Why ? Not because your gear isn’t well protected against physical shocks, but because nefarious people KNOW by certain ‘tells’ that you might carry something valuable.
We all have certain “Tells”
These “tells” might be the brand and size of your bag but there are also other things that might tip people off. What kind of phone do you have there, what type of earbuds, how about the shoes you wear ? Or your clothes? All of those things pulled together might give a possible pickpocket a pretty good idea of how ‘wealthy’ you are and what the chances might be of getting a good ‘catch’ when they lift your gear without you knowing it.
Are their shoes shiny, clean and expensive? Is that an Apple Watch ?
Playing the “Tell” Game
Lately I’ve been playing the “tell” game on the train to Brussels: Trying to ascertain the “value” of a “target” using my powers of observation. (Just by looking) and it is a lot of fun to do when you get it right. Is commuter X in front of me nothing but a poor student with a crummy laptop or might there be a Dell XPS15 in that bag ? I take a look at their phone, the state the phone cover is in. I take a look at the headset he has on. Just a couple of no-name earbuds or are we talking a 500 dollar Bose here? Clothing gives a lot away. Are their shoes shiny, clean and expensive? Is that an Apple Watch ? (Then there should be an iPhone in there somewhere). When you really start paying attention there are a lot of ways we inform the outside world about our lifestyle and the tech we are carrying.
What are YOUR “Tells” ?
So I challenge you to take stock of your outward signs techno-wealth? Do you flaunt your Apple watch on the subway? Does your backpack show what brand of laptop might be inside? Are your noise cancelling headsets draped around your neck as you walk to class? What signs might you give pickpockets that you might be quite the catch?
Start by hiding the obvious
I’ve started thinking about this during my trainride into Brussels and thinking: How can I start hiding the obvious. One of the things I thought about was my backpack. So I started this little experiment in “hiding” my gear in something less “conspicuous”: A 25 euro general purpose backpack from Decathlon (a local sporting and outdoor store). These things are ubiquitous. College students, soccer-dads, blue-colar workers.. They all seem to have them and use them for a variety of uses. Schoolbooks, Lunch, Sporting gear .. you never quite know what is inside. Ideal for hiding my tech stuff. No ?
Of course the bag needs some “work”. I’m not gonna shove a naked Macbook Pro into a 25 Euro nylon sack. I’m not insane. The bag is going to need some adjustments to keep everything safe AND I also want some additional measures to fly “under the radar” of nasty people who want to steal my gear. I”ll tell you about those in my next post.
I love to read. If there is anything that is powerful enough to slow down my ever raging mind, then it’s a good book. But finding the right one is always a hassle caused by the abundance of choice. If you go to the library, you lend out a bo9, put it in your pocket and read it till you bring it back. Reading on an ereader is a different experience. You have a TON of books to choose from and you can carry around a 100 of them at the same time. So picking (and sticking) to a book is sometimes harder then you think.
Stuttering impulse drives
The last couple of months I have been going through a little bit of a crisis. You see: I used to LOVE Star Trek novels and could be enthralled in a good Star Trek story for days. I remember reading entire series of Star Trek books on holiday and enjoying every minute of it. Lately finding a ‘good’ Star Trek novel has been hard. The last series I finished was the ‘a Time to’ series that took place in the TNG era. When trying out the ‘Destiny’ series the impulse drive of my engagement with the story started to sputter. The reason that all the post TNG – post Nemesis books just didn’t ‘click’. Wether its Riker on the Titan or Ezri Dax as Captain of her supership it .. just does not feel right. So I decided to dive off the deep and an go looking for something else.
The Expanse Series: James Corey
Enter James Corey and his series of books called ‘The Expanse’. If you have seen (and enjoyed) the TV show, go pick up the books ..now. 8 massive books later (I even read book 4 and 5 ON PAPER) I put down the cliffhanger book of one of the most intriguing, actually ‘believable’ hard scifi books. The series greatly reminded my of the works by Arthur C Clarke: great scifi where all the math and science lines up. The last book still has to come out by I am already looking forward to it.
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
After that I decided I would sink my teeth into some of the classic scifi authors of the cyberpunk genre. I had tried to get through Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash as an audiobook. But I had a hard time keeping up my interest with the book. It might be considered blasphemy, but to me the book is a little dated looking at todays technology, and although i’m Belgian and Surrealism is part of my culture, pizza-maffia just doesn’t do it for me. So when I accidentally stumbled across Seveneves I was amazed to find out it was by the same author! The story: The moon breaks up after getting hit by a black hole and the resulting meteor cloud wipes out all life in earth. Earth has 2 years and 12 people on the ISS to get shit organised for the survival of our species. This tantalisingly realistic read will have every scifi nerd perched on the tip of his chair while challenging him or her to Google stuff about orbital mechanics, pooping in Zero G, Dna and genetic manipulation AND how to turn a floating piece of space ice into a steam-rocket. I had a bit of a hard time with the second part of the book (the story jumps ahead 5000 years) but the first half put Deep Impact and Armageddon to shame.
No love for Solo
So time to go on my summer holiday. Problem: I had not found a good fiction book to read. I tried re-reading the original Han Solo trilogy (The story about how Han Solo becomes ..well Han Solo) starting out with Han as an orphan all the way up to the moment where he and his wookie buddy meet this old guy and this young boy in a Bar in Mos Esley. But again, the story just didn’t get me. Although I greatly enjoyed ‘Tarkin’ by James Lucino, the ‘Force’ wasn’t with me this time.
Dan Simmons: The Terror
To spend our first evening in our cottage I decided to try watching the first episode of Amc’s ‘The Terror’ a series based around the failed Franklin expedition: 2 British ships that got stuck in the artic ice in 1845 and their race to stay alive while being chased by a giant ‘thing’ on the ice. I am a sucker for books, tv shows and movies that will have you Googling and Wiki-ing your way through facts and tidbits, so I was thrilled to see that the series was based on a true story AND the novel for the series had been written by Dan Simmons, one of the classic Authors who wrote the Hyperion. So i was hooked, paused the series, downloaded the book on my Kindle and started reading.
The story is great, the characters are believable, the monster on this ice is well, a monster, but a lot of the story and scenes are based on historical facts. These facts are abundant in pictures on wikipedia and historical documents online. Some letters in the book written by Captain Crozier: Can be found in a museum in Canada. The book one shipmate lends to another as they leave the boats behind ? It’s part of an exhibition. Even the mummie of a dead crewmember recovered more then a 100 years later is on display. This makes all of it very “real” and very very interesting. The book is well written and prods you to find out more about rigging, masts, sailing, navigation and shipboard life in 1845 and about the technology they used. Very very interesting stuff and a great holiday read. The book of course diverts from historical events (it’s a Novell) but is a great read I would surely recommend.
Star Trek: A time to…
James Corey: Expanse Series
James Luceno: Tarkin
The Terror: Amc
The Terror: Dan Simmons
Having the chance to literally unplug from the daily rush of being a freelance entrepreneur (read: hiding out in the north of France for a week), has given me some time to sit down and think about what I want to do with the Knightwise.com website and the podcast. Don’t worry, we are not going away anytime soon (the fact that nothing has actually been moving on the blog for the last couple of months is evidence of that) but I do need to make up my mind on what to do next, what to do with the “next season” of Knightwise.com
Knightwise.com is essential
Knightwise.com is and has always been the digital playground of my life. Keeping track of new stuff, experimenting with technology and sharing that with the community has been one of the most rewarding things I have done the last 13 years or so. Even though I don’t have much time anymore to get into my “geek groove” because I am insanely busy with my own company, I know that “being” Knightwise and “doing” Knightwise.com is an essential building block to stay sane. I just need that creative outlet AND it’s a great idea to keep abreast of whats going on on the edge of real and cyberspace.
Downloading is doubtfull
With the advent of ubiquitous bandwidth in every corner of the modern world I HAVE been looking at the “classic” way I have been distributing the Knightwise.com podcast. Recording the audio file, uploading it to the internet archive, linking it to the website and then pushing that content to different social media platforms to get traction is .. a pain in the rectum. When you look at the average number of downloads it might be worth it, but it is hard to find new followers and “get noticed” by people who can join the community. As a little experiment I did a Youtube screencast a couple of weeks ago (Completely done on my Linux machine) and posted that online. 4 days later: 20 000 views AND a SLEW of comments. Now I KNOW its not about the SIZE but about the QUALITY of your audience, but still: its a BIG number. Part of the reason was using the platform: Youtube just has a far bigger “reach” then just a teeny wordpress blog like mine. I asked myself the question: is the “old” way of doing podcasting still effective enough ? Maybe we should quit downloading and offer all of the content on a bigger platform.
No I’m not gonna sell out.
Hold your horses, I’m not gonna sell out just yet. With over 1000 articles on the blog there is no way I’m going to ditch my little website here. And I don’t trust the lords of Youtube enough to credit them with all my content. Luckily this is not an “Or” but either an “and” problem. How about we do BOTH ?
Thank you TC
I was inspired by the return of the Spacemusic Podcast. TC followed his dream, packed up his stuff and moved to Malaga to reboot his podcast. He is doing a “streaming” version of the show on platforms like Mixcloud and a “Download” version of his show via Patreon. For 6 dollar’s a show you can get the downloadable version via a secret RSS feed and you get a premium non-stop version too. (Although I find the show LESS enjoyable without TC in it). He makes a buck out of every show he produces and that doesn’t sound so bad to me.
So what do you think ?
Now I’m pretty late to the Patreon Party and there is a reason: I don’t NEED to make money off of Knightwise.com but it WOULD be a little bit of a motivation AND a big help if I need to buy some stuff for the show. I know you have heard this before but it WOULD help me stay true to the general Knightwise.com idea: Free for everyone, at a cost when you want “more”.
As for the “content” part, it WOULD mean that you would be getting the majority of the content from the blog while the content itself will be streamed from the different platforms (Youtube/Soundcloud) and depending if I will be doing Audio or Video you can download the shows into your RSS reader of choice. Sound like a good plan ?
So help me decide: Would this be a great way to get your Knightwise.com fix and would you pay (about 1 dollar or something) per show just to be able to download it for Offline use ? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments.
Before I left on holiday (a blissful week in the North of France where sunshine is plenty and data coverage is poor) I set out on my little quest to gather all the stuff I wanted to read, listen to and watch during my few days away from civilisation. (Civilisation being the triple screen uber-workstation I call “my office”). It was a nice exercise picking out books I want to read, downloading Youtube video’s I want to watch and some podcasts I wanted to catch up on. Of course I will never have the time to consume all of that content (Unless we get snowed in for 3 weeks straight) but it was a fun exercise in “Curating” my own digital library.
“Curating the library of your mind”
“Curating the library of your mind” had been a topic for a show many moons ago where I talked about ways to “slipstream” the information overload a geek has to live with into something that adds to the quality of your life. Mainstream media (Both online and offline) are filled with 80% sludge and 20% valuable content. Before you know it you spend hours on Facebook, browse endlessly through 9gag or Instagram while you COULD be listening to a lecture from Harvard University or teaching yourself how to program. I try to think about these things whenever I use my computer. Am I using my time in a valuable manner or am I just watching cat video’s ?
To help me in this I’ve started to build a sort of library of content on my Linux machine that I synchronise with my mobile devices where I have divided up this library in “To Watch, To Listen, To Read”. It features download Ted talks, PDF’s of articles online, Books, Courses I found somewhere etc. Because I always have them handy I always have an excuse NOT to surf Facebook for hours because, I have alternative (and higher quality) content.
As a geek it’s important to clean out your “digital gutters” from time to time,
As a geek it’s important to clean out your “digital gutters” from time to time, taking stock of what you are spending (or waisting) your time on and, if it is getting you anywhere. My personal career as a IT professional has been fundamentally altered for the better because I spent 3 hours a day listening to podcasts instead of listening to stupid breakfast-radioshows. There is a lot of information out there that you can get into. You are responsible for the quality of the content you consume.
A couple of days ago I was cleaning out the gutters of our new house (you know, the ones so clogged up your drainpipe has nothing to do when it’s raining). I pinned on my Mike and started a recording for HPR about “Cleaning our your digital gutters”. Hope you enjoy.
I have been pondering a while now on how I was going to write up this blogpost, thinking about the title, the lead-in, the postcard, the body and the takeaway (These are copywriting terms BTW) but in the end I decided to ditch the whole idea and just write this one off the cuff.
Truth is, I’ve been crazy busy lately. Having my own company, giving talks, subcontracting as a freelance Project manager AND moving house has left me with very little time to do anything remotely interesting in the geek world. That in itself is sad, seeing how much fun I had doing stuff like the Knightwise.com podcast and website over the years.
It has been SO busy that I even started sliding into “norm” land. You know, Norms, those folks who watch daytime tv and consume mass media. When instead of browsing through some obscure SubReddit devoted to cyborg bunnies, I was aimlessly scrolling through mainstream crap like 9gag, Facebook and some celebrity’s Instagram feed. What has become of me ? ?
So I gathered up my imaginary friends (Neo from the Matrix, The ghost of Optimus Prime and a couple of dead Jedi masters) to host a virtual intervention. A moment in time where I told myself: Enough is enough. I urgently need to get my geek back! I need to read books which are insanely niche or unknown to the general public. I need to watch Youtube channels instead of Netflix enjoying smart content from brilliant people who live in tiny apartments across the world. I need to listen to ted talks in a way other people listen to pop songs AND I need to ramble my thoughts online, on my personal blog.
Yes! Blog, you know, that thing we thought up back in 2004 where everyone with a keyboard a screen a teakettle and an internet connection could write his or their thoughts online. Over the last years my “blogging” has more and more fallen into the pre-shaped constrictions of copywriting because “it reads well”. If you realy geek down to it, the main purpose of a blog is not only to be read, it is also the fact of writing it. Expressing your thoughts with the world at large without having to make it “commercially viable” because .. its geek .. right ?
Case in point: Couple of weeks ago I managed to clump together a stupid Youtube screencast on how I had installed Ubuntu 18.04 on my XPS 13 and what applications I was using. 48 hours later the silly little video was hitting 20 000 views and brimming with comments. Wow! Where did that come from ? Turns out I still have some Knightwise mojo in me after all. Now we must be careful with this because the lure of fame (if you can call it that) is never far away. Before you know it you start looking for topics that appeal to a greater mass, and in doing so start to “dumb down” your geeky video into some shallow commercial youtube-countdown video that says “Top 5 things to do after installing Ubuntu”. Not my thing, not at all.
Where I a going with this insane ramble is that, as a Geek its OK to hang out at the fringes. Obscure knowledge, technical documents, falling asleep while listening to the sounds of a numbers station you found on Vimeo… the weirder it gets the better I like it. So I will ditch the rules of commercial writing for a while and just shoot straight from the hip and try to share with you what geeky finds I came across while cowering the fringes. Because we do live on the edge of real and cyberspace .. do we not ?
Yesterday I was browsing aimlessly through the “personal adds” section of the Facebook app, (You know, that place where people dump stuff that they want to get rid off without ever having to log out of Zuckerville) when I came across a guy selling off his NES – Retropie setup. I decided to got for it and went to pick it up today. While spending my morning run immersed in the audio book “Armada” (From the same author as “Ready player One”) I found myself in a very retro mood and topping it off with a slice of retropie seemed appropriate.
Little did I know that this guy also had a massive vintage game collection waiting for me in the basement. So after shooting some shop talk he dragged me down into memory lane. An old p1 pc, a crt monitor, a classic clackety clack keyboard and 2 massive boxes of original game titles. It was all there, in pretty much pristine condition, waiting for a new owner.
It took me a couple of hours of pondering wether or not I should take it of his hands, but in the end I decided to bite the bullet and go for it. The only question I”m still asking myself is: Why ? Why, in a time where deepfake porn movies and virtual reality headsets let you spend the evening with Emma Thompson, do we insist on delving back into the past ? Nostalgia for our childhood ? Escapism from the mortgage-dominated worries of adulthood or just plain getting old ? Is playing retro games the modern day equivalent of sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, screaming at kids to get of your lawn.
The answer to that question still eludes me, but I will investigate. Starting tomorrow I will be dragging a horizontally oriented beige-box with an AT powersupply up my geeky attic to try and relive those magnificent days of playing Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem, Quake3 and many other forms of digital entertainment that kept me from getting a hot girlfriend in the early 90″s.
So before I open up my investigation, I curiously inquire YOUR thoughts on the matter.. Were things better in the old days or not?
There used to be a time when Laptops were a rarity. Just once in a while you would see a businessman or a corporate rep logging around a massive black box with an LCD screen, doing something incredibly boring like Lotus 123 (The forefather of Excel) on a (then) very exiting piece of technology.
Those days are over. If your youngest forgets his laptop before he goes in for another shift at kindergarten, you might as well swing your Uber around to go get it before he has a major emotional breakdown. The chance that a technologically savvy individual like you has just “one” laptop is even small. You probably have multiple machines lying around the house, the choice of which machine you are going to take along with you mostly triggered whether or not it matches the color of your shoes.
I am no different in that effect. Having multiple devices lying around the house I am sometimes torn between what to take out the door with me. Like women desperately deciding what outfit/shoes to wear to a party. Same goes for me, as I didn’t know if I should pick my Dell XPS13 or my MacBook this morning. After going back and forth a little I picked one but not after using precious minutes only recovered by running like a madman to get my train..
This “having to choose” is of course a first world problem and I am ashamed to even remotely complain about the luxury of choice, but I was reminded of one of the books I read by Cory Doctorow a while back called “Pirate Cinema”. The book, a novelized manifesto about the freedom to create and remix digital content revolves around a teenager who runs away from home to live out on the streets where he works on his great passion: Remixing old indie movies on his laptop, or “his lappie” as he affectionately refers to it.
This very intimate relationship between the boy and his most coveted piece of hardware is inspiring. It is the one machine he carries around with him and the very focal-point of his creative efforts. Reading that took me back to the days I got my very first Mac computer; A 12inch G4 iBook that can only be defined as the stomping ground for my creative ventures into blogging and podcasting. I carried that thing around with my anywhere. Although the laptop is long gone (heartlessly sold off go hark up cash for it’s successor) I still have the little backpack I bought for it and I refuse to give that one to charity.
The simplicity of having “just one device” is not that bad. Sliding across operating system, across multiple devices and multiple platforms is all great and exiting, but a lot of times I have found myself caught out with ‘just the wrong device’. The other “habit” I used to have is to leave my most expensive laptop (my MacBook) at home, in fear of it being damaged or stolen along the way, and picking a lighter, cheaper machine to go out with. When I think of it its pretty bizarre behavior .. no ? Much like buying an expensive sofa and then sitting on the floor because you don’t want to ruin it.
So this week, in light of my recent fascination with “the art of less” I have scooped up my MacBook Pro and shoved it into my messenger bag. Instead of using two or three laptops , I’ll just use ONE. I have not found an affectionate name for it as yet , but it WILL become the pinnacle of my professional and creative out-spurts. I vouch never to be caught out again with a device that “isn’t quite right, or does not sport “all’ the apps I need to / want to use.
So how about you ? Are you a digital Tarzan swinging from device to device ? Do you have a hard time picking just the right tool for the right job ? Or do you just have ONE machine and stick with it ? Tell us ! We are dying to find out
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.