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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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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Getting the band back together.

Its been a while since I blogged. Hell, its been a while since I did anything of great importance for Knightwise.com. And for that i want to apologize. I could blame the usual scapegoat of not having enough time, and in part that is true. But only in part. The other half was a lack of effort that stemmed from a single thought: Why bother ?

Pretty harsh words because at the source of that thought lies that once thing I was lacking. That sole thing podcasters and content creators crave whenever they put something out on the interwebs: Feedback. The lack of steady shows coming out and the “dispersion” of the community over multiple Social Media platforms (The die-hards on Telegram, some on Facebook, hardly any on Twitter and none on the blog) did make podcasting feel like shouting into the void. That taxes your motivation, decreases your show output and .. fewer shows, less feedback etc.

With the Covid19 crisis breaking out across the globe that changed. Suddenly I had a more “stable” workroutine (I work from home full time now) and many of the die-hard wiseguys were online during my office hours. That sparked some contacts, conversation and .. some ideas.

It was Wiseguy (lets call the core team that) Regravity that came up with Discord. True enough, producer KDMurray had already suggested it a while ago but as an alternative to Telegram it never “went” anywhere. That was until we started talking about the “open mic” voicechat hotline the guys over at HPR have. As the digital version of a 90’s partyline you can “call in” to their mumble server and chat. Kind of like “office banter” but you aren’t at work and they are not your colleagues.

We tried it out together with Konrad, Gerjon, KD and Regravity and pretty soon we were having a cosy chat. Of course.. give a podcaster a microphone and he has a stage, so pretty soon the idea bubbled up, why not DO a show this way? Recordbot Craig was added to the list, everyone dusted off his USB microphone and we set a time in my busy schedule to actually record a show.

The result was great! Having multiple hosts in the room bantering over a subject gave me back the feelings I had back in the days of the Global Geek Podcast, a sense of camaraderie and sharing the (chat)room with a people who are a lot smarter then I was, enriching the show.

Slowly but surely we started experimenting with other functionalities of the platform. After (accidently) broadcasting the sounds of our living room while having diner and watching ‘Friends’ the idea popped up: What if we could use this as place not only for recording, but also for broadcasting? So this sunday we gave it a try and did a (closed) livestream of a DJ set for the community. Channels were added where you can share what you are watching, what you are reading and more. The sense of “community” started to grow.

Before I tell you about todays monumental apex, I want to say WHY I start to love Discord as opposed to Facebook and other Social Media. ONE: its pure geek. As a pumped up spiced up version of IRC, it gives us a LOT of sharing and collaboration abilities, while still staying true to the roots of a classic “chatroom” where you are represented by your Avatar and your handle and NOT by who you ‘actually’ are. You can come in and show us your geek side, and nothing else. Its chaotic, its technical, its fun. I can (finally) ditch my ‘real’ name and embrace the Knightwise persona once again.

However, while hanging out today we decided that it was time to embrace discord in full by trying to get as many members on board from the community as we could. I started pumping out Facebook PM’s, shared posts on the Facebook Community and started trolling long forgotten ‘follow’ lists on twitter with one message: We are rebooting the community, come to Discord. In a few hours time something amazing happened. Like a scene from a movie where the different retired members walk in one by one to once again form a fantastic rock band, they came. Dave, Herne, Thorgal, Peter… voices and friends from long gone walked in and .. started to chat.

I want to say something that might sound cheesy, but I think I had a moment of pure joy seeing everybody walk in that way. It was amazing to see a community coming back together and exchanging banter and quips. It made me realize that the one thing what was keeping me from doing shows was not an audience or feedback, it was a community!

I remember @moonenmoonen’s wise words years ago: It’s not about the SIZE of your community/listeners, its about the interaction you have with them. And its great to see everybody coming together again on a platform where we can pull in their knowledge and interactions and put them into a show with hardly any effort. Its like .. technology working for us instead of the other way around.

You can find our Discord at: https://discord.gg/w3ZG9WM

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Back on the Mac.

About two weeks ago I started to notice the issue that the keys on my Macbook Pro (2017 model with the butterfly keys) started to become “slightly unresponsive” (See the article “Death of the butterflies”). After dragging the Mac back to the store and explaining the issue to the tech it apparently got fixed. I’m very happy to report my Macbook is still under warranty, otherwise this little escapade might have cost met over 300 euro’s.

Where on a “normal” machine they just swap out a keyboard (I remember doing this almost blindfolded when working on IBM Thinkpads back in the day) the replacement of the Apple keyboard is close to brain surgery. Along with a new set of keys, I also got a new battery and a new lower half of my body. Basically I got my screen, my logic board and my harddrive back. The rest is new.

After spending more then 10 days constantly on my Dell Xps13, I have to admit that oging “back” to my Mac is something of a mixed blessing. Sure, here is my allround powermachine that does just about anything, from video editing to presentations, from running work-citrix to giving me the Unix command line. But the keyboard? I think the chance of the butterfly keys and me ever going into a long lasting loving relationship are slim. They keys might be slim, cool, thin, made out of fairy farts, but aside from lacking basic symbols ( Backslash, Pipe key, Tilde Key) the lack of travel does not feel right.

Having had “clogged butterflies” where my keytravel was messed up due to microscopuc elements of dust, I will never quite “trust” this keyboard again. Whatever happens I will always have this nagging feeling that somehow it just doesn’t “feel” right. “Was that tap OK ?” “Did that character get registered ?” “Oh ow, is it clogging up again ? “ I don’t know, maybe I’m focused too much on it or maybe there is something fundamentally wrong with Apple’s approach to the design. It’s a little bit of a moot point since i’m stuck with this machine for a while anyways.

That being said, I enjoyed having my XPS13 as a daily driver (YES, Running Windows !) The machine is light, fast, has mat screen and I still love it like the day I got it. It will always be a hard choice packing up in the morning and choosing “What laptop am I going to take with me”. I think that’s the curse of being a cross platform slider.

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