KW1501 – 10 Geeky Projects for 2020

Welcome to 2020!
This week Knightwise takes us through a list of projects to help stretch our geek muscles and maybe try out some new ways to use or think about technology as we slide into the new decade. We’ve got, things to learn, ways to protect your privacy and your data, projects to try and services you might want to support.

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Connect with the Community

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KW1106 PodSafe Tunnels

Podsafe tunnels

What happens when Knightwise and KD get to chatting during an early morning commute? Episode KW1106: PodSafe Tunnels.

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Music

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Can a Chromebook keep you entertained ?

So its day Three of the “Chromebook only” week. A week in which I promised myself ONLY to use my brand new Acer C730 to get things done. In a previous article we’ve talked about the first impressions of the device and what it feels like to take your Chromebook to work. That’s all nice but … what about downtime ? Can the Chromebook entertain us ? We’ll find out.

Before I start I want to make a confession : I’m a cable cutter ! Yes, we have ditched ‘traditional tv’ in favor of streaming content from the internet and from our personal library of backed up Dvd’s to our television. So demands for ‘conventional television’ aren’t very high in our households. However : With the holiday season coming up there is the need to catch the Doctor Who Christmass special on BBC2 … But I live in Belgium .. So what to do ?

Enter the HOLA extension. A little app that lives in your browser and allows you to “tunnel” through local proxies in the US, the UK and other countries to be able to watch ‘their’ content. ‘Hola’ works great for watching content like Bbc or watching the Extended Netflix catalog in the US. The Chromebook keeps you entertained for hours.

As for music : Plenty of services out their that want to stream their soundwaves your way. Some extensions even let you upload your music to your google Drive and stream it from there. If you don’t feel like doing that , how about Spotify, Stitcher, Grooveshark and plenty of other services ? The audio quality on the C730 is pretty good although it IS lacking a little bit in the lower part of the sound spectrum. No doctor Dre .. but no tinny radio either.

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As for games : They are (of course) web based. Some of the apps in the Chrome webstore are nothing more then glorified links to websites where you can play said games. But thanx to Java, Ajax, Ruby and other forms of webmaster-black magic you can play a decent game inside a browser these days. If you don’t mind the occasional apps for adult-daipers in the upper right corner .. you can find online (clones) of Command and Conquer .. or really go for it and dive into some classic arcade games that are a dime a dozen out there. And lets not forget the Internet archive with their Internet Arcade ! Play a ton of classics .. in your browser .. on your Chromebook.

Conclusion :
If the internet is a geeks daycare center where he can spend hours while his/her parental units go off to do other things in the real worls … the Chromebook is your hot babysitter ! It will keep you linked up to the world wild web (that ain’t no typo) and if you know where to look you can spend hours playing games, watching movies and listening to music WITHOUT spending a dime OR breaking the law. As long as you keep the Chromebook connected .. it will keep you entertained

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“Geek nostalgia with bulletin board systems” by @mcvries

At the age of 17 I owned my first real personal computer. A 8086 XT Pc. It had a whopping 20 MB hard disk and a “color” screen. Monochrome “amber”, the referred to as the only color the screen could display. Booting took minutes, installing software took tweaking and knowledge, and all in all it was new, exciting and fun. And it was beige, of course. Back then … everything was beige.

One day, rumors started drifting my way :  Other students told me about BBS’ s, mysterious computer systems hiding behind a telephone number. Managed by ‘SysOp’s’, another kind of super computer human who ‘controlled the system’. Most of them were underground and mysterious, some of them were a professional service. Some of them might have been pirates on a ship in the middle of the Caribian .. or maybe not.

I was intrigued. Intrigue turned to marvel, marvel to desire.  A Modem had to be bought, installed and put to dear use. And so a journey began. With a modem installed the previous day, a terminal client on a floppy and a telephone number scribbled on a piece of paper I came home and sat down on my throne. Somewhat nervous I started the application and configured a new ‘Remote Host’. The telephone number of “De Digitale Stad” (The Digital City) in Amsterdam was entered and squeaking and whining a connection was made. “De Digitale stad” was connected to “The Internet” and therefor I became empowered with “The E-Mail” (Exclamation Mark to be inserted while reading this.) To actually use e-mail I had to use mutt, a text based email client. And after probing and prodding, I composed the first e-mail in my life.

After pondering and correcting, contemplating I came up with the body : “Test” (Poetry, pure and simple !). Lovely,  but  to whom should I sent it ? The only email address I knew was my own. Well,it was just as good as any ! (I was an interesting person to talk to..so why not ? )  The brand new address was carefully typed in the correct field and the “ctrl <s>” was pressed.  ZOOMM …  my first digital message began it’s way into cyberspace. (Pause a second … or two ) And there it arrived back to me ! Well that was quick! Marvelous new technology ! I yet had to learn that the message probably never even left the server, but the excitement of it all, the possibilities at my finger tips! I could e-mail with someone across the ocean! At no extra cost. Huzzah ! 

Since I didn’t really knew anybody across the pond and my curiosity wasn’t utterly fulfilled with the services on “De Digitale Stad”. And so  I searched for some other BBS’s and found them. Lists with telephone numbers were exchanged again during school hours, with notes on how good and worthwhile they were. Connecting through a telephone line at 2400 baud gets you about 240 characters per second if I recall, and that was exactly what you got: Characters. In full color, where available.

 And boy , those menu’s were filled with options: downloading .JPG’s, downloading .mod’s (the Camemans MP3), and chatting with other user(s). The  plural of “User” only applied if the sysop had more than one landline. This was however rarely the case on any of the BBS’s I visited. 

And of course there was the magical ability for ‘uploading’. Uploading to get credits, credits to allow downloading. What I downloaded I uploaded somewhere else to gain even more credits! Meanwhile, through the messaging boards I got to know people, learned about computers, learned how to set up a BBS myself and after a while people called into my system. Dropping files, typing messages, submitting stories, manuals, hacks and books. We were “surfing” at the cutting edge of technology!

But in a world which is always connected, offering enough bandwidth to stream HD movies and connect to thousands of online friends those systems were sure to fade away. Or were they?

Well, if you would start a telnet session to towel.blinkenlights.nl you will see an ascii version of starwars. Telnet to miku.acm.uiuc.edu and you will see Nyancat which is all nice, but telnet to xanadubbs.ca (open a shell and just type : “telnet xanadubbs.ca”) and you will end up in a secluded world, a singularity in CyberSpace, a BBS. Not searchable, but menu driven and ancient to the touch, it will be a journey back in time.

At quadrilion times the speed “we had back in the day..”. And rest asured :  there are many more like it. No longer through a modem, no longer at a bitrate a professional typist could  defeat with one hand, but the “feel” is as authentic as it ever was.

Hosting a BBS  yourself ought to be do-able, just have a look at lunduke’s post here Hmmm, I just might start one myself and when I do, I’ll scribble the address on a note here.

 If you want to get a feel of how it really was, go to the Internet Archive here and watch the documentary. Make sure to keep an acoustic 300 baud modem in mind when the gazillion of bytes you need so much to be transformed in a HD movie take a bit longer to arrive at your enormous hard disk, than you would like. You live in a future we couldn’t foresee back then. Enjoy it.

@mcvries

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Free audiobooks and other strange stuff at the Internet Archive.

If there is one place you should check out for some interesting and crazy content , it has to be the internet archive. Now I know that ‘The archive’ is mostly known by many of you in the form of the “way back machine ” , a sort of time machine that stores old versions of websites. You can have a laugh looking at what yahoo.com looked like in 1994 , or even take a peek at Knightwise.com as it looked like 5 or 7 years ago. There is a lot of interesting stuff. Most of the content on the internet archive is stuff that no longer has any ‘intellectual rights’ tied to it. Meaning that the producers of the content are either dead, that the content is so old even their pet hamster is dead (and so there is no one left to state a claim) or that the creator of the content has donated the content to the public domain. (Like for example .. me !) So I know what you think : The internet archive is just filled with a load of old and useless crap ! .. But there you are wrong. Unlike the movie ‘A night at the museum’ , that still has me waking up screaming at night .. this ‘museum’ of content is filled with the strangest of things. We will tick off 5 interesting finds for you to take a peak at.

1984, by George Orwell‘. If you are in IT, Social Media, Management or … are a Biped alive in the 21st Century : This book is a must read. Social visionary Orwell describes a world of total control, zero privacy in a run down reality in 1984 ( Sounds like Myspace ! ) Why read if you can listen .. and why pay Audible some big bucks if you can download the audiobook for FREE 

NYFD Radio communication on 9/11′ A truly chilling listen : The radio communication logs of the New York Fire department on 9/11. Hearing them go into action , hearing the sirens, the noise and the confusion gives you a chilling feeling that you are part of that day in history … A tribute to the heroic firefighters if there ever was one. A must listen.

Cosmos , War of the planets’ A terrible B-movie filled with overacting, poor costumes , horrible screenplay and hilariously stupid aliens. Forget “The Avengers” .. Watch THIS 

Open Security Training”  How about a screen recording of an online tutorial on security ? If you are on the Internet archive .. Why not take the time to learn.

Nbc Short Stories‘ Nothing more nostalgic then picking up old radioshows that are by now only consumable halfway on the other side of the galaxy. Their radiowaves have long departed , but you can still listen to them HERE.

So enjoy your little trip through the internet archive. Everything is free and there is no farting allowed in the reading room.

(Thanx to listener Lorddrachenblut for the 1984 tip)

 

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