KW1107 Let the Technology Work for You

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We’re back! It’s the first episode of 2017. Knightwise reinforces the sliders ethos by kicking Linux to the curb — well sorta.

Links

Music

  • Lightning Traveler – Summer [Jamendo]

Credits

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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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When wanting is more pleasing then having : What drives YOU to buy new gear ?

“Wanting is more pleasing then having” : It’s not logical, but it is the truth. It’s a line Spock must have quoted in some long gone Star Trek episode somewhere (please don’t ask me, I can’t remember which one). For some reason it has stuck in my mind for the longest time. “It’s not logical but it’s the truth” is the follow up line .. completing the entire statement and lifting it to the realm of existence-pondering quotes out there.

spock crying

I’m reminded of the quote as I’m browsing through a similar quote (of the financial kind) of my current gadget-infatuation (or toy-crush) : The Dell XPS13 laptop. This sleek small 13 inch laptop has been on the market for quite a while and sports very cool specs in a very small form factor. I could go on telling you about how its innards, the software, the reviews and the hours of research I have been doing about it .. but that is a little beside the point. To sum it up : I’m infatuated with it at the moment. Because its a cool new toy and I want it !
There .. I said it : I want it ! I have read reviews, talked to people who own one, looked up insanely detailed technical documentation on how to take it apart should I ever need to. Adds for the laptop have been popping up in Facebook and Youtube is now convinced my only goal in life is to watch MORE review video’s about the XPS13. If the XPS13 was a girl, I would be considered a stalker. But since its only a laptop (and a gorgeous one at that) it’s called research and I’m called a Geek.
I don’t wear sandals and have a neck beard.
Mulling over this quote in my hands I took the time and step back a little, to the days before my gadgetary obsession with the device to ask myself the question : When did the XPS13 become the perfect laptop for me ? Was it after some long quest through the digital wastelands in search for the perfect portable laptop ? Was it after a life changing event that made me realize that in fact did not OWN any portable computer ? Am I to become a Linux Developer working for canonical in the morning (and hence need such a device ?)…. No. I in fact have a laptop (and multiple portable devices) and I don’t wear sandals and have a neck beard. I can’t even write a decent bash script so .. the developer option is out.  Somewhere along the line I must have just decided that I wanted to have it.
The journey is more important then the destination.
What is important to know is that the journey that took me towards the point where I decided I really WANTED it, has never really started at any point where I NEEDED it. I’m not ashamed to point this out. My “urge” to posses the Dell XPS13 started when I read some article about its existence and from that point out I have started to dream up reasons why I need it. Sure, there were issues with the current size of my Macbook pro (in combination with my mobile lifestyle) that gave me some problems : The Macbook Pro is a little bit too big (and too expensive) to carry around everywhere and it would be handy to own something smaller. Also I have been playing around with Linux for a while now and have always wondered what it would be like to buy a machine pre-installed with Linux .. but none of these reasons truly validate the purchase of a new machine.
When it comes to the small form factor I have an older Surface Pro 1 which is perfectly portable (I take it to all my business meetings) and although Linux runs on it (I’ve tried it) the experience isn’t quite flawless. In its defense it does run Ubuntu linux perfectly in a full screen VM having plenty of power left. So if my “reasons”‘ for buying a new machine are that I need a small portable linux running device .. why don’t I settle for the machine I already have ?
I’ve probably been marketed.
The answer is probably marketing. Subconsciously I’ve been influenced by the mega marketing machine that is the internet into believing I NEED the Dell XPS13. And because of that I”ve started to rationalize the purchase by telling myself all the things I can do with it. Falling for the marketing trick is not something we should be ashamed of our shy away from. For one our economy would collapse and we would all end up living in our own cabin in the woods like hermits .. but it IS a good thing to be AWARE of this.
I for one have been taking a close look at those reasons I came up with why I NEEDED this new device.
– I needed something that was smaller then my Macbook Pro.
– I needed something that was powerful and portable so I could take it with me everywhere without being afraid to break our bump it.
– I would LIKE to have a machine that runs Linux flawlessly.
– It would be great to have a little laptop that I could take with me te blog on and record podcast.
– I would be so much more productive if I had this ONE laptop that could kind of do anything..
….
So dp I need it ? 
There are plenty of more reasons where these came from if you query me long enough .. So I decided to take this shortlist and throw it at the hardware I already have. (In this case my I5 Surface pro) . Turns out that (aside from running Linux natively) it CAN do all the things I want to do (and then some) Add in the stylus and the transformable laptop-tablet form factor and it is actually a more versatile device then the XPS.
Then why do I want it ? 
The second thing I did was to take long look at the list and figured out what it really meant. When I read beyond the technical desires there are some creative desires there. What my subconcious is actually trying to tell me is that I want to have more time to be creative. My creative urges see the XPS13 as kind of a promised land to write more, podcast more .. have more time to myself. They also are urging to have a less complicated life. Those are the things I really WANT.
The bottom line is that what I really WANT is more time to unleash my creativity and a less complex and hectic life to do this. Thanks to clever marketing the XPS (and its specs) has been heralded as the enabler of these solutions. The fact is : it’s not true. If I want to be more creative , i CAN … I just need to do it on the hardware I already have. Instead of upgrading my machine I might need to upgrade the way I spend my time. Perhaps I need to upgrade the importance of listening to my creative urges. Perhaps what I really want is an XPS version of my own life at the moment.
Its funny how a cool gadget triggers thoughts about what you really want out of life .. but in the end THAT is what matters. So when you feel the urge coming up to get a cool new toy you don’t really “need”‘ .. figure out WHY you want it. It might uncover some hidden desires or frustration that you want to resolve.. Getting those sorted out might be harder then just buying a cool new toy in a shiny box .. But it will be much more rewarding. So you see 🙂 Wanting is not as pleasing as having .. It’s not logical : It’s the truth.

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kw902 : What’s wrong with Windows ?

Its time for episode 2 in Season 9 of the Knightwise.com podcast. Today we take a long overdue look at Windows (Both Windows 8 and Windows Phone /RT) Triggered by a recent purchase of a Dell Venue 8 pro tablet we take a look at what Windows still has to offer. What are the cool apps in the store, what are the killer apps you need on your desktop and which tools give you the best “Cross platform slider – friendly” experience.

You can download the show or watch the live recording (Which is full of glorious bloopers and distractions from the Live chatroom).

Shownotes.

 

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Essentials week : How much for just the Tablet ?

Its essential week on knigtwise.com and we try to look for the ultimate selection of gear to get things done on the road .. with the caveat that we want to lug along as few items as possible. so in that light we test out a different mobile setup each day.

Introducing the Windows Tablet.
“What ?”… Yes, I heard you gasp back there as you read this title in amazement.  “A WINDOWS TABLET ?” Your surprise is valid’ for i haven’t touched a Windows device for personal use for quite some time. Yet when i got a chance to try out this Dell Venue 8 pro .. I could not resist. Would it be a fair companion to take on the road with me or just some dead-weight gadget ?

Windows RT = Windows ‘No-Thanx’
One of the reasons I had thrown aside any interest in Windows or Windows mobile devices over the last year was the quite horrible experience I had with the soon to be forgotten WINDOWS RT. Although a step up from the ageing and clunky interface of Windows Mobile .. It caused me a lot of grief. Not per se because of the OS itself though : I thought it was actually quite elegant on the first windows “phone” devices I tried out. “An elegant business version of what a blackberry should look like” I dubbed it. and I was right. (I mostly am)  if you lived in your mail contacts and calendar application (and connected to Exchange online and office 365), you would be fine. Move off this beaten path for just one step and you would encounter the beast of disappointment. Wandring through the app store would quickly make you realise that even “essential apps” who were abundant on other mobile platforms, were either poorly written or .. not there at all. Classics like Instagram were not available on the OS and only homegrown alternatives, built by well meaning but inexperienced developers, would give you a watered down alternative. Windows RT hit rock bottom when I gave my wife a Samsung Ativ S smartphone and sent her to wander into the world of Windows RT. No phone in our personal history has been more hated, more quickly discarded and took longer to get rid off secondhand .. then this one. A “handicapped” os, duck-taped to poorly aligned hardware. No apps in the store, device rebooting at random … not a chance. Sayonara Windows Phone.
dell-venue-8-pro

… This gives it the feeling of a “netbook” more then a tablet ..

So what about this one ?
Believe it or not , I was actually quite impressed with the venue when I first started using it. The device is a little on the heavy side compared to its other 8 inch compadres , but you aren’t really holding a tablet, are you ?  Because whenever the windows ‘Metro (we all still call it metro)  interface might irritate you, or the poor choice of apps in the store leaves you wanting … you can just go straight into “full desktop” mode. This gives it the feeling of a “netbook” more then a tablet .. hold the thing in your hands for browsing and checking mail and its a tablet. Hit the desktop icon and the whole thing seems to transform into a tiny notebook. For some strange reason this should make it a device that is neither one nor the other. Too heavy to be a Tablet, too small to be a notebook … And yet, thats not the case. As a “power user” I quite LIKE to have that “hidden OS” under the Metro hood. Sure enough its not easy to operate with your fingers (Dell does ship a 40 dollar active stylus if you really really want it) but .. hide a little keyboard and a bluetooth mouse in your bag and … Boom … Filezilla, A terminal application, Full blown Open Office. Chrome (and all the cool Chrome extensions) are right there. Who gives a dingdong that there are no Metro apps in the store .. ( “What store  ?”) I’ll just use this as a mini notebook. Its not lightning fast, you won’t play the latest version of Halo on it .. But it works and it works pretty darn good too. For Emails, Content creation and the geeky stuff we love to do like setting up SSH tunnels to our home networks or … performing a penetration test with nMap .. the 8 inch compadre does it and does it well.

Pro

  • Small
  • Good battery life
  • Full desktop suite (Pro)

Con

  • Screen is rather small to use it desktop mode
  • A little heavy
  • Poor choice in metro apps

Conclusion.
Should the need arise I think I would be quite capable of surviving on this little tablet contraption. What it might lack in “richness” of its metro ecosphere it makes up for with full desktop apps. It feels like a heavy tablet but is in fact a very light and compact pc. Not lightning fast but portable enough to, in combination with a keyboard .. can become a very very versatile little pc.

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Picture of the week : Geek Setup.

I sometimes get the question what gear I use and how I have stuff set up at home. Thus it might be a good idea to post a pic of the “home office” as I have it setup today. Featuring 2 24 inch Dell displays hooked up to an I7 Mac Mini, an older 19 inch display hooked up to my Asus eee Linux box and the iPad as a “heads up display” screen for keeping track of it all. I should install one of these nifty programs to use one keyboard and mouse over both systems , but  since the linux machine and the Mac are on two different subnets , that might not work so well.

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Dell Laptop Bombers no longer alone ?

Dell Laptop Bombers no longer alone ?

dellMeanwhile in the real world Dell owners walk around with their laptop-bags with beads of sweat on their forehead. Packed with a heavy load of a overstuffed bag on one shoulder and a fire extinguisher on the other, their own mortality is very apparent to them As they leave for bed the laptop is stored outside, on an inflatable mattress in the middle of the swimming pool, if only to comfort its endangered owner that no indoor fireworks will go off inside the house thanx to of the Nr 1 hardware supplier DELL.  It might sound funny, but just imagine having one of these baby’s in the house. Ok, on a statistical scale the rate of failure / explosion of a dell laptop battery is remote at best .. but still ! Would you sleep at night ?So yesterday when I read an article about Apple recalling 1.5 million (hello !) laptop batteries in the US, I was not really worried. Nothing to affect little old me here in downtown Belgium. Although I am an owner of one 12 inch Ibook (confiscated for personal use 6 months ago by my wife) I didn’t think much of it. But just to be on the safe side I surfed over to the Belgian Apple Site where indeed there was a link to the battery recall program. (you had to go under SUPPORT and hire a private detective to find the link, but none the less it was there). So i popped the battery from my wifes Ibook and law and behold the type number AND serial matched those of the ones that where franticly recalled to Silicon Valley. Imagine my surprise that 1.5 YEARS after selling me my Ibook, Apple suddenly comes to the conclusion that .. ‘oh yes .. there is a little issue of a Fire Hazard’ And if I would not have been an avid listener to Slashdot Review I would not have even found out about it.

 

ibook

 

FIRE in Babylon.

I mean : We are talking fire here people. We are talking Laptops that lie on the couch , are crammed in bags, lie in cars, or sleep UNDERNEATH my bed after a late night chat session. And the error here is not that the mouse cursor might go astray at any given time .. NO ! The flaming thing can BURN ! Its downright incredible that Apple only finds this out ONE POINT FIVE  years after purchase AND does not yell “BEWARE ! FIRE ! “ on its homepage instead of hiding the recall program in some dark corner of the white website.

Laptop self-combustion risk… Nice .. very Nice.

Sure enough I entered the serial and got a nice little email that I will receive a NEW battery in four to six weeks. I was advised to remove the battery from the Ibook and work on main power until the new bugger comes. WHAT ? NOW i need to work without the battery ? For the last year and I have I have been a “human-with-laptop-self-combustion-risk” and NOW you tell me ? Djeez ! Now I Know the thing got HOT ( I made my wife use it on this little table whenever she wanted to set it straight down on the couch) but in my minds eye I see all the nights where the Ibook slept so near to flammable goods that my fire insurance policy is now stored off site in an Iglo !So BAAAD Apple for finding this out SO late and notifying its customers in a rather poor way. I’ll keep you posted on the whole story .. If my macbook does not decide to cremate itself while on my lap.

If you want more information about the Ibook and Macbook Pro issue go HERE and HERE. 

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Dell releases USB peripheral to battle exploding battery issue.

Dell releases USB peripheral to battle exploding battery issue.

 

dell

 

 

The first ever USB Powered Fire extinguisher. 🙂

For tech in your life .. tune into www.knightwise.com and check out the Knightcast Podcast. 

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