Review : The Samsung Gear VR. One way ticket to VirtualSpace.

With the advent of the Occulus rift, a set of “virtual reality goggles” within the consumer price range, the breakthrough of Virtual Reality was imminent. Or so we thought. Turns out that VR, to many is nothing more then a gimmic and that scenes from “The lawnmower man” are far from part of our daily lives. The glasses where too expensive, the content available to niche.
The former part of that statement started to change when things like Google Cardboard came out. Basically a cardboard version of a futuristic ‘viewmaster’ with your smartphone as the screen. At an extremely low price people could dip their toes into VR-Space for the first time.
Since then some time has passed and recently Samsung has released their second iteration of “their” version of Google Cardboard : The Gear Vr. Using your high end Samsung Smartphone as a screen you pop this futuristic piece of plastic on your head and off you go.

 

1297778671014_ORIGINAL
So how does it work ?
Once ’emerged’ into Virtual-Space the Occulus app store automatically kicks in allowing you to choose a variety of activities. By ‘browsing’ through the VR app store you can install apps, games and demo video’s (some are free, some are not) and give them a try. Navigation is done by moving your head around, selecting and scrolling can be done using a touchpad on the side of the glasses.
So what’s it like ?
Although this truly an ‘early adopters toy’, it is quite surprising how immersive your experience is. The default “room” you are in to select your app and activity is a giant hall in which you can look and move around. Pop in some headphones and you get the distinct feeling that you are really ‘there’. The old saying ‘What they eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes’ is pretty accurate.

Although this truly an ‘early adopters toy’, it is quite surprising how immersive your experience is.

 

Screenshot 2016-01-03 08.22.46
Any Content ?
There is some content out there like games (You can fight off the zombie apocalypse, even with an added wireless controller should you want to) You can visit the cirque de soleil (and be ON stage instead of in the crowd) or even try out your public speaking skills in a sort of ‘presentation simulator’.

A little bit of minority report.
Samsung also provides you with a “browser” that allows you to surf the internet. You can “search” using Google voice commands and browse around different pages. It becomes really cool when you can set different tabs side by side in a giant video wall. We enjoyed watching a Youtube movie this way, while having the IMDB page of the movie open on a second ‘screen’.

 

Samsung-Gear-VR-internet-web-browser-1

Everything is big !
It is hard to explain what it actually “feels” like using the glasses. First of all : Everything is big ! Since you have no sense of scale every screen looks like its about 4 meters wide and 2 meters tall. “Monitors ? Where we are going we don’t NEED any monitors.” Doc McFly would cry. A perfect example is the Netflix application that lets you sit on a virtual couch in a virtual cabin watching a giant virtual srceen. We actually managed to sit through en entire movie in this application and be surprisingly entertained.

“Monitors ? Where we are going we don’t NEED any monitors.”

netflix-vr
So are we there yet ?
Probably not, this is still early-on technology and the fact whether this is a gadget or a tool can be best evaluated by asking the question : Would you actually use this. The answer is : For browsing and games I would use it occasionally. But I DO see me using this on a plane to watch Netflix (and chill). T
The technology is very immersive and that is also a little bit of the downside. Using this in public makes you look like a total zombie since you are completely spaced out. You don’t hear OR see ANYTHING of your surroundings. Its the antisocial teen with headphones on during a family diner, multiplied by a factor of 10. You are in VR space or in real space .. but you can never peek ‘over’ your screen.
At a 100 euro’s it is surely worth a try to play around with Virtual Reality technology AND get away from your messy room OR noisy kids. The gear VR is only compatible with selected Samsung phones and only works with content from the Occulus app BUT there is quite a bit to try out.

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Productivity week : Some free templates to keep your Google Slides presentations interesting.

When you are a cross platform slider, hopping from operating system to operating system, you know that life is HARD sometimes.

One of those hard things in a sliders life is finding a good app to build slideshows and presentations that works on EVERY OS. I used to swear by using keynote for this. Its probably one of the simplest and most elegant way to put together a slideshow and become the “dealer of death-by-powerpoint”. You can just see your audience die from the sheer boredom of your presentation, but they die with a smile on their face. Hey, those 200 slides about the annual hamsterwheel stockprices were boring as hell, but boy were they pretty !. The downside is that Keynote is only available for Steve-jobs-loving Apple jokeys and that doesn’t help you when you just have your Linux laptop with you.

avoiding-death-by-powerpoint-1-638

“Release Openoffice” I can here you scream. Yeah. It is pretty much a cross platform alternative for Keynote and it will let you work on presentations using your Mac, your Linux machine AND your Windows box. The downside is that IT (being Openoffice) looks like it was built in the 80’s and your presentations are about as sexy as an open box of Twinkies in the poring rain. And whenever you want to go grab your tablet or a smartphone … Openoffice just doesn’t help you there.

What remains is Google Slides and Powerpoint online. If you have a browser and an internet connection you get get all of your slide-slicing stuff done from no matter where you are. But the default templates in Powerpoint online are a bit stale and the ones in Google Slides feel like they are from the late 70’s ! The more platforms you can use .. the more boring your slides become .. or not ?

So enter 2 good alternatives to make those “online” slidedecks a little bit more interesting are Slides Carnival (For Google Slides) ¬†and some of the free templates on Office online t Both are a great resource to help you make those “standard” presentations a “little” special. So there ūüôā Cross platform presentation making doesn’t have to be so boring after all ūüôā

Links :

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kw908 : Getting Things Done, the cross platform way.

Is your mailbox overflowing ? Is your to-do list getting out of control ? Have you forgotten to pick up your significant other from the airport 3 times in a row ? Sounds to me you need a system to organise the myriad of things you have to do. Good thing there is KW908 : Getting things done the Cross platform way. We talk about the system I use to organise my tasks and my life .. the cross platform way.

Shownotes

Music provided by Daniel Mesner

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kw905 : Life on a Chromebook.

We deep dive into the world of Chromebooks and find an answer to the question : Can you survive on a Chromebook. We walk you through the possibilities and limitations of the Chromebook. We enlighten you  on how to use it for work, connect back to your home network and how to use your Chromebook to entertain you. If thats not enough we go beyond the design specifications and sideload Linux on your Chromebook turning into a low budget sliders dream machine. All of that and more .. in Kw905 : Life on a Chromebook. Catch the live recording of this podcast in the Youtube video below and see if you can catch Sulu the dog as our Podcast assistant.

Shownotes.

  • The Acer C730
  • First impressions
  • Hardware – Software
  • Taking the Chromebook to work (Article)
  • Using the Chromebook to entertain you (Article)
  • Connecting back to your home network via a Socks5 proxy over SSH (Article)
  • Dual Booting your Chromebook with Linux (Distroshare.com)
  • Sideloading your Chromebook with Crouton (Youtube instruction video)
  • Epilogue

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Ebook Week Day 2 : Undrm your Ebooks.

If there is one thing that I hate with a passion, then it is DRM or  Digital Rights Management. To explain it as simple as possible DRM is the technology used to screw over a paying customer. It is a form of copy protection that should prevent piracy of digital content but instead creates a paradoxical situation where it is more annoying for somebody who PAYED for said content vs anyone who chooses to pirate it.

When I forked over 15 of my well spent dollars in the Google Play store for an Ebook a couple of weeks ago, I was under the assumption that, since Google has no E-Readers of its own, I would be able to read said book on whatever Ebook reader I purchased. Lets be honest : I bought the book, Payed for it and I bought the e-reader. No biggie .. right ? Wrong ! Turns out that when trying to read the ePub file on my recently purchased Kobo Aura , the thing would not open. “DRM Protected” was the error I got. ¬†Possible solutions were : Reading the book on my android tablet (in the Play Books app) or buying it all over again in a DIFFERENT online bookstore (with DIFFERENT drm). Not gonna happen Google, Not Gonna Happen.
Alternatively I could download a piece of Adobe software, hook up my Ebook reader, Authorize my ebook reader online, make an account with Adobe and “transplant” the book. Meanwhile the guy at the Pirate Bay who got a pirated copy of the book has been reading it for the last 4 hours and is way past the second chapter. Yet as a paying customer I have to jump through adobe hoops ? No .. no thank you.
Enter “All DRM Removal” : a great app for Windows or the Mac that lets you strip the DRM of your favorite ePub file using a simple drag-and-drop application. The first three books you “strip” are free, but then you have to pay for the app. I dropped my “Drm infested” ePub into the app and sito-presto : I got a new ePub file back.. Drm free ! After dragging it over to the ebook reader it worked like a charm.
I would not use All DRM Removal to completely strip the DRM of an ebook collection you don’t own (thats piracy , remember ? ) but for the occasional book you buy in a DRM’d store .. This is the app to set them free. Happy ebook’in !
Link.
DRM removal by Epubor.com

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kw804 : The Cross Platform Startup.

What does it take to start up a company ? ¬†What does it take to make that company cross platform compatible ? What hardware do you choose , what software do you choose ? What services do you go for ? What are the challenges, the easy bits and where does it all make you want to pull your hair out ¬†? We answer those questions in this weeks podcast as we take a deep dive into the technology we selected and used to start up our own IT Consultancy company. Listen up ! You might learn something ūüôā¬†

Shownotes.

 

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Chrome Week : Our favourite Chrome extensions (part 1)

When you think of it “having applications inside of a browser” might seem like a bizarre idea. However this IS the case when you take a look at Chrome and the Chrome OS. All chrome applications that are available in the store (and that turn your Chromebook from a porn-browsing paperweight into an actual “computer”) are also perfectly usable inside the chrome browser.
The great thing about these chrome extensions (or chrome apps) is that they are highly cross platform. Whether you are running chrome on your Chromebook, your windows or Linux machine or even on your mac : Chrome apps will look the same everywhere. The also have vastly the same possibilities (and limitations) everywhere. Most of them might not be usable if you are offline, but most of them do simulate a full fledged application (where it not that you KNOW they are running inside a browser). As we hop from OS to OS we write sweet love poems to the following list of chrome-apps for giving us a consistent and pleasurable experience .

Feedly
Some chrome apps are just links to web services, and with the Feedly chrome-app there is not getting around it. Its basically a link to the web based interface of Feedly. The good thing is : Feedly looks good, its fast and it works. The Chrome app takes care of logging in for you and BOOM you are reading through your 2908383098 unread articles. Good luck with that.

chrome-extensions

Pocket
“Oh – Ah” .. I want to read that later ! That’s something we scream about 4 times a day when we tread upon an interesting article that is just to long to read at that very moment. I hit the “save to pocket” icon in my top tool bar and the article gets saved (with pictures and everything) to Pocket. Whenever I feel that i’m browsing around aimlessly ( Facebook – newspaper- Reddit – 9gag – newspaper …) I punch up the Pocket extension and browse through the articles I saved earlier. Pocket also has a great mobile app that lets you read the articles offline on your mobile device AND have the articles read out to you with a text-to-speech function that sounds like Stephen Hawkings hot sister.

Evernote
Here we can only say one thing : This is without a shadow of a doubt one of the very best Evernote clients for Linux. By the time that our popular note taking application to release a native Linux application, pigs will have colonised other planets. There have been some attempts by open source beard bearing goblins to make a client that interfaces with Evernotes API on Linux .. but the chrome app takes the cake. Sure it won’t work offline, but it IS the cleanest way to connect to your web based version of Evernote on ANY OS.

Google Drive
Why would one need Google drive when one has Dropbox or even the locally installed Google Drive client ? The answer is simple. This extension does not drop the Google files into your desktop ecosystem .. this IS the Google desktop ecosystem. Not only do you get easy access top all the files you have stored on Google Drive , you can also instantly access them in the very same window, regardless of your OS. Whether you would like to write a love poem to Miley Cirus, do a spreadsheet on how you will managed your finances one you marry her .. or draft up a slideshow on why a care-bear should be featured as your upcoming company logo .. its all right there in ONE window.

Google Calendar
Without my calendar I am lost. Browsing over to my calendar in the cloud and logging in to enter an appointment ? I’m too lazy. The Google calendar extension gives you your calendar in a window at the click of a mouse. I love having the short cut to this Google app (Because that is what it is) on my desktop is just too darn handy.

Google Mail
In know I might be boring you to death with Chrome apps for “standard” Google services .. but they ARE the ones that do what they do just right. The cool thing is that these (native) Chrome apps do give you the luxury of a standard desktop applications like notifications and the ability to become the “default’ application for handling any email shortcuts.

Gliffy
Visio. Microsofts ‘Miauw Du Chat’ when it comes to drawing up complicated flowcharts or organisational charts that feature your name waaaay down the bottom. There aren’t a lot of replacements from this app in the cross platform world. Good thing that there is Gliffy, Gliffy is free and has all kinds of nice flowcharts and funky network diagrams for you to play with. Gliffy even lets you store them on line (all though the number of Flowcharts you can save is limited in the free version).

Mindmeister
We all have brilliant idea’s. We just don’t have the brilliant idea to stuff something (like a piece of paper or a pencil) in our pocket to write them down. That’s not such a bad thing because pen and paper is a pretty shitty way to manage an entire brain fart. You want to be able to draw branches and sub-branches. You want to organise your thoughts into categories and subcategories . You want to do this anywhere and preferably .. for free. Enter Mindmeister. A great online mindmapping tool that works on any device that comes with a browser (except the Nintendo Wii). Aside from having native clients on IOS and Android that sync with the cloud, Mindmeister now also has its own chrome app. You can only store one or two acts of brilliancy online in the free version .. but nobody ever said that you should have just ONE brain dump per document.

any.do
The one thing you have to DO with TO-DO lists is keep track of your to-do’s. If your to-do’s are stored on different devices, one of the things you need to do is keep them in sync. Any.do does sport a native IOS and Android client that syncs your Todo list with the cloud. The great thing about its chrome app is that it creates a nice pop-up window that you can set to the side and keep track of your to-do list that way. Any-do is as polished as a native app and looks identical on every os. Love it !

Links.

There are of course more Chrome apps out there that might carry your favour. Tell us about them in our comments section.

 

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Server week : Trust no-one with Owncloud.

Dropbox changed its terms of service so they can give you data to the Feds if they just ask for it, Ubuntu shuts down the online fileservice “Ubuntu One” : Who can you ¬†trust these days ? The great thing with cloud solutions is that they are on a server far far away, most of them are free and you never have to maintain them. The downside is that they are on a server far far away, they are free and you cannot maintain them. We give up a certain level of control for the convenience of the cloud. It would be of course far nicer if you had a service that offered you all the luxury of the products mentioned above .. but gave you full control, absolute privacy and a completely controlled solution. (and free ! It has to be free).

oc5files

Do not fear : Owncloud is here.

Owncloud is a self hosted cloud solution that gives you the luxury of the cloud in the privacy of your own home (or on your own hosted environment). Its a cross platform webservice that gives you the ability to store files in the “cloud” and access them from anywhere, Sync those files with your desktop (like Dropbox) You can share your files with friends and access them using mobile clients on Android and IOS devices or a simple browser window.

Don’t trust the cloud with your Calendar and contacts ? Owncloud takes care of that too. Manage your contacts and calendars straight from Owncloud or sync them up with your mobile devices using open standards like .vcard and caldav.¬†

Tired of the tracks on Groovebox or spotify ? Would you like to stream your music (and movies) from your own hard drive at home ? Owncloud even has an answer for that. The built in media player lets you access your library from anywhere as long as you sport at least a browser (AND some underwear .. Owncloud is classy like that).

Want to tie all of your different cloud services together ? Owncloud supports connecting external storage to the service (like network and usb drives) but can also connect to Dropbox and Google Docs, offering ALL those files up in one simple interface.

So what does it take ? 

Installing Owncloud is pretty simple. All you need is a linux server and you can choose to install Owncloud either from the repositories (if you are using Ubuntu or Debian) or you can go and download version 6 straight from their website. 

Owncloud is based on a web based server so you can access everything from port 80 and add some security by choosing to go for https to do your authentication (highly recommended). ¬†You can run it on your server at home OR on a webspace you rented somewhere (or if you are really lucking on your own hosted server in some datacenter). You don’t need a lot of power, but Owncloud does need some ram and some cpu power if it is going to manage and index thousands of files for you.

So how do I do it.

Find out more.

In all , Owncloud is a very powerful solution when it comes to hosting stuff yourself. It has come a long way since version 6 and I have been a big fan of the convenience, the cross platform compatible-ness (is that a word ?) and the sheer power of integrating multiple storage locations (usb drives, network drives, cloud storage) to ONE single web interface. Try it .. you’ll be on cloud 9.

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Google Hacking Week : Find webcams, mediacenters and more with Inurl

Today on our Google Hacking week, we continue to use the Google search engine as a source for interesting information. In our ¬†previous posts we talked about finding and downloading certain kinds of files but today we are on the lookout for “juicy devices”.¬†

The theory is quite simple : Most appliances like webcams, routers, copiers and more have web interfaces. A lot of different applications and services can also be controlled by a web interface. It’s easy and convenient when you can use the browser on your computer to configure and watch your webcam or change settings on your router while on your local lan. But what if those devices are hooked up directly to the internet ?¬†

Any device that gets connected directly to the internet is at some point scanned and indexed by Google and if you enter the right search term you will be able to find it. The way we are looking for those devices and services today is by using the INURL option. Some web interfaces (to your router or webcam) have a very specific way their URL looks. By searching for those specific url types with the INURL option.. you can find some very cool stuff. If people have done their homework most of these services will be blocked by a unique login or password. But some people just use the default password … or even none at all.

Let us take you an a walk through the net with some very specific INURL Google Dorks.

  • inurl:ViewerFrame?Mode=¬†
    • This one will get you some interesting webcams (some you can even control with your mouse). Look around and see if you can find the Giraffe Cam.
  • inurl:view/view.shtml
    • More network camera’s here. This one is in some dorm/college. You can control the zoom and the direction of the camera.
  • inurl:”:10000″ intext:”webmin”
    • Remember we talked about WEBMIN ? This will give you a list of all webmin servers connected directly to the internet. most of them are protected by a password (we hope) .. but common usernames like ROOT and some generic passwords might get you in.¬†
  • inurl:”32400/web/index.html#!/dashboard”
    • This will get you a list of PLEX media servers where people can store music and movies to watch on any device (even across the internet). Most of them are locked down with a login/password. Some of them … are not. Happy streaming.

webvammies

So you see : there are quite a few webservices out there that are inadvertently open to the indexing power of Google. Some clever searching and you can find them.

We close off by going by to our camera in the student dorm. Where is this ?  A simple ping of the url gives us the following IP :  138.25.6.37 and by going to Whereisthisip.net we find out that its Sydney Australia. Its THAT simple.

Puzzling information together.

This might all look like fun and games, but badly secured devices are dangerous. Whether you have weirdo’s peeking through your accidentally-publicly-connected Ip camera, or random people printing out documents on your www-connected printer.. its never good. Using the Domain name, the IP and the registration information of the domain people can quickly find out where and even WHO you are. If you skip good security and don’t use passwords (or default passwords) .. it does not bode well for you. Hackers even use the INURL search to find specific webservers/services with vulnerabilities. All they then need to do is run some code to take advantage of the exploit .. and they are in. Hackers don’t NEED to search for your open Webmin server with the buggy (and vulnerable) version of the http code .. Google did it for them.

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