KW1304 – Cutting the Cable

Cut the Cord

This week Knightwise talks about cutting the cable and some thoughts about what this could mean for not just your pocketbook, but also your sanity. There are tons of places you can get content that you source and curate yourself. Come join us to hear about a few.

Producer’s note: Originally recorded in 2017, but not originally aired in KW Season 12.

Links

Credits

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Why Offline is the new luxury

Fear of the dinosaur
I am really scared of a T-Rex. And when I say that i’m not talking about the 30 foot giant dino that scared the living crap out of those poor kids in the original Jurassic park film, but the little grey one that pops up in Chrome, when you don’t have an internet connection. Because that means that I am “Offline”. And these days “Offline” equals being lost at sea, or stuck in a cave, or stranded on one of the moons of Uranus. Or worse: Being stuck in a cave at the bottom of the sea on one of the moons of Uranus. You catch my drift: Being offline is bad.

Beyond the Blackberry: Offline is bad
Why is this? I vividly remember a time where 95% of my day was spent “offline”. Only when I would need to get “on the internet” would I use a little box that made screechy noises to temporarily connect my wonky PC to the world wide web. These days a computer without an internet connection is about as useful as can of window defroster in the Sahara.

It all changed when we got the first smartphones with a permanent connection. Those “Blackberry’s” in the hands of avidly tapping CEO’s would give them the infinite power to be connected all the time, everywhere. It was cool! That meant you could spam them 24/7 with useless questions like “When do I get a raise” knowing that would help to get a rise of of them (Hah).

But somewhere along the line this all changed and we needed to be connected all the time, first so we could be pinged and dinged 24/7, then because we had a massive case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and next because all of our data and our applications were in the could. No pipe? No Party.

The cloud is a blessing in disguise. Sure: our data was safe from failing hard drives and homework devouring K9’s, but we need a permanent pipe to get to them. That’s ok, bandwidth is cheap and connections are ubiquitous, but not omnipresent. Commuting by Train from Brussels does mean that at times the 4g connectivity on my phone is spotty and at some points cuts out altogether. Very annoying when you are in the middle of a cloud based session and not reliable at all. But instead of fearing those moments I’ve begun to embrace them.

I’ve found out “Offline” is great time to blog, to tinker with video’s. To edit down Audio file or to meticulously murder and decimate any mails that are hanging around in my inbox.

The luxury of begin without a connection
There is an incredible luxury about being offline because all the distractions you might encounter go away. No more pings, dings and doodah’s from Facebook or Whatsapp. No more side-quests to hunt down a life-sized My little pony on amazon. No silly youtube cat video’s that eat hours of your time. No more emails that drop into your inbox right when you are in the middle writing up a killer reply to the previous mails. Just … you, your keyboard and your computer. The virtual doors to your man (or woman) cave a closed, the doorbell is unplugged and you get to soak in the digital bubblebath of your own creativity (or focus) without being disturbed.

I’ve found out “Offline” is great time to blog, to tinker with video’s. To edit down Audio file or to meticulously murder and decimate any mails that are hanging around in my inbox. The sweet 90 minutes of Downtime I get as I zoom through the Belgian spotty cellphone-covered countryside are actually the most productive ones of my day.

Make the tech work
Sure I have to make sure the tech works. That means most of my services and clients need to able to ‘handle’ offline. Syncing to your local drive is a great option. Apps like Onedrive, Onenote, Outlook, Dropbox all have the ability to ‘work offline’ and push/pull incremental changes once the packets from the inter-webs return. Not every app or service support that. But think about it. If you NEED constant connectivity to do that one key thing you need to do, you are very vulnerable should the handy workmen decide to accidentally rip up your internet connection while doing some digging.

Are you a constantly connected cloud-crackwhore that cannot live without a public IP or a 4bar wireless signal ?

Enjoy the silence
So here is my question: How much CAN you still DO offline? Are you a constantly connected cloud-crackwhore that cannot live without a public IP or a 4bar wireless signal ? Are your workflows so tied into the cloud that without them the only think you are good at is grunting like a gorilla as you wave your useless smartphone around ? I’m dying to know. You can tell me all about it, when I get back online.

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Three Can’t Miss Star Trek Fan-Fics (part 3)

Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar

If you haven’t read part 1, or part 2 we highly suggest you check them out!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that is a milestone for every geek. Perhaps you are a die hard fan from the early days watching Kirk and Spock trod around on wobbly sound stages trying to get it on with green aliens. Perhaps you jumped in during Voyager and still long for the moment that Seven of Nine tells you she wants to be your ‘friend with benefits’. It doesn’t matter what kind of Trekkie you are, there is never enough content to watch. The upcoming show “Star Trek: Discovery” won’t air until 2017, so what do you do in the meantime? How about diving into the world of fan fiction with some shows produced by loving fans of the Star Trek universe? There are many of them out there, in various forms of quality ranging from horrible B-movie material to tantalizing TV. We hit up YouTube and picked our top three. Our final installment is “Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar.”

Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar

We cannot finish off the list without talking about “Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar” an independent Star Trek fan production (We cannot call this a fan-fic) that has JJ Abrams and the CBS bosses lying awake at night. The show cuts in during the first “Four Year war” and the legendary battle of Axanar. It features the upcoming heroics of Garth of Izar, later featured in one of the TOS episodes as the main character. What makes the show great is not only an all star cast and a fantastic production quality but it is also depicts a very dark version of Star Trek.

Stories and episodes

No episodes have been aired yet, the only thing the world has gotten are 2 short “documentary like” vignettes (first, second) featuring an interview with the main characters in the form of a historical documentary. What might sound like a boring discovery-channel episode is actually something brilliant. The 21 minute “Prelude to Axanar” will have you turn blue from holding your breath in pure anticipation of what is to come.

Acting. The acting is top notch, this due to the fact that all of the actors are professionals who have real world experience in science fiction franchises like “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica”.

Richard Hatch (Appollo in the original series of BSG), Kate Vernon (from the BSG Reboot), Tony Todd, Gary Graham and of course J.G. ‘Martok’ Hertzler. All of them are top of the line actors will manage to grab your attention and whatever geek-DNA you have like pitbull returning from a weight-watchers class.

Sets and Special Effects

Lighting and sets (from what we have seen) are top notch. Makeup, costumes are all pro-grade . The CGI is straight out of a primetime TV show like BSG or “The Expanse”. Although its quite clear that this show runs in the original TOS timeline, the ships do resemble those in the Star Trek Reboot, known to fans as the “Kelvin” timeline. They are larger, more complex and love to blow up in a ball of spectacular fireworks.

Will it ever air

“Axanar” has the potential to be so good that CBS (who have the rights to the Star Trek TV shows) may be getting worried. So much so that at the end of 2015 “Axanar” hit with a lawsuit to stop the show from ever airing. The reason? It might steal some of “Star Trek Discovey’s” thunder. CBS’s new Star Trek Show (also a prequel to TNG) will be airing in 2017. I think I could write up a 14 page article on the ins and outs of the lawsuit but suffice to say the judge has declined CBS’s original claim that they own all things Star Trek. Fingers crossed (in the Vulcan salute)

Epilogue

Aside from these three shows there are many many Star Trek Fan-shows on Youtube. While some are of dubious quality when it comes to sets, makeup or acting, you should not be quick to judge. Each Star Trek Production, from the Primetime to B-movie quality is done by fans of the genre paying tribute to the show they love. Together with the viewers they keep the genre alive. So be nice before you post a snarky comment on their Youtube channel and remember how much time and effort they put into this. Star Trek fandom is IDIC 🙂 Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, there is no good and bad .. there is only Trek Love.

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Three Can’t Miss Star Trek Fan-Fics (part 2)

Star Trek: New Voyages

If you haven’t read part 1, we highly suggest you check it out!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that is a milestone for every geek. Perhaps you are a die hard fan from the early days watching Kirk and Spock trod around on wobbly sound stages trying to get it on with green aliens. Perhaps you jumped in during Voyager and still long for the moment that Seven of Nine tells you she wants to be your ‘friend with benefits’. It doesn’t matter what kind of Trekkie you are, there is never enough content to watch. The upcoming show “Star Trek: Discovery” won’t air until 2017, so what do you do in the meantime? How about diving into the world of fan fiction with some shows produced by loving fans of the Star Trek universe? There are many of them out there, in various forms of quality ranging from horrible B-movie material to tantalizing TV. We hit up YouTube and picked our top three. Up next: “Star Trek: New Voyages.”

Star Trek: New Voyages

In our second installment we take a look at “Star Trek: New Voyages”, also known as “Star Trek: Phase II”. Like “Star Trek Continues” this show is also set in the Original series timeline of the Star Trek Franchise. “Star Trek: Phase II” was in fact the name of the never-aired sequel to the original series that Roddenberry wanted to produce. It featured the voyages of the Enterprise after her first 5-year mission during TOS. The show never got aired but some sets and character ideas were re-worked for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and some of the story ideas were used during the production of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. The fan show Star Trek Continues/Phase II, picks up at that point.

Number of episodes

First aired in 2004, Star Trek Phase II has so far produced 11 full episodes and a couple of shorter vignettes.

Stories

The show does start out as a little over-zealous fan-tribute show that tries to cram as much ‘trek’ into one episode as possible with about as much finesse as cramming tribbles into a Klingon’s underpants. During the first episodes the number of tributes and cameo’s are a little overwhelming. But as the show matures the stories get better and better. Two episodes “The Child” and “Kitumba” are actually based on the original un-produced scripts for the never aired Phase II series. “The Child” was eventually re-worked for the second season opener of TNG.

Acting

Star Trek: New Voyages has had several cast changes during its run. All the main characters (Spock, Kirk, Mccoy etc) are portrayed by at least different actors. The first actor to portray Kirk, James Cawly, gives us a solid idea of what would have happened if Kirk had been an Elvis fan. Brian Gross, depicting Kirk after episode 9 gives us a younger, more naïve version of Kirk. But what the “core cast” might lack in acting skills is made up by the guest stars. From Walter Koeing to George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney to Denise Crosby, the original Star Trek Giants come by to pay tribute and pitch in.

Sets and Visual Effects

As is the case with most fan-created shows (and most of the original Trek series), the production quality improves along the way. The sets and costumes are great, but what makes STNV stand out is the excellent CGI. The shots of the (partly refit) Enterprise are drop-dead gorgeous and stand out far beyond anything Paramount ever produced, even in the production of shows like “Star Trek: Voyager” or “Enterprise”.

Conclusion

A little rough around the edges, “New Voyages” sometimes borders on a cheezy fan show. But this is more then made up for by great stories and the all-star guest cast that pops by from time to time.

[6]:

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Three Can’t Miss Star Trek Fan-Fics (Part 1)

Star Trek Continues

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that is a milestone for every geek. Perhaps you are a die hard fan from the early days watching Kirk and Spock trod around on wobbly sound stages trying to get it on with green aliens. Perhaps you jumped in during Voyager and still long for the moment that Seven of Nine tells you she wants to be your ‘friend with benefits’. It doesn’t matter what kind of Trekkie you are, there is never enough content to watch. The upcoming show “Star Trek: Discovery” won’t air until 2017, so what do you do in the meantime? How about diving into the world of fan fiction with some shows produced by loving fans of the Star Trek universe? There are many of them out there, in various forms of quality ranging from horrible B-movie material to tantalizing TV. We hit up YouTube and picked our top three. First up is “Star Trek Continues.”

Star Trek Continues

First Aired in 2013 this show is produced by a non-profit charity and takes you back to the good old days of The Original Series. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are all there, but just played by different actors.

Number of episodes

As of today, STC has 7 episodes under its belt and features some great guest stars. From Orion slave trader Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk) to Chris Doohan filling in his father’s shoes as engineer Montgomery Scott.

Stories

The pilot episode “Pilgrim of Eternity” where Apollo (seen in the TOS episode “Who Mourns for Adonais”) returns to the Enterprise is spot on! The show entertains you but also makes you think about humanity, society and all the big issues Gene Roddenberry held most dear.

Acting

The cast delivers great original performances but still manage to pay homage to the original cast. Actor Vic Mignogna has a subtle way to portray all our favorite “Shatner-isms” in his portrayal of Captain Kirk. Michelle Specht plays Elise McKennah, a character that wasn’t in the original series cast, portrays a ship counsellor that puts Troi to shame.

Sets

“Star Trek Continues” built their sets from the original blueprints of the TOS sets. Therefore everything looks just like it came straight out of TOS, but stuff doesn’t wobble when they walk around (at least not much).

Visual Effects

The special effects in the show are pretty good and they have continued to progress as the series moves along. However the show focuses more on storyline and dialogue then on flashy special effects.

Conclusion

Star Trek Continues is surely worth the watch if you are a fan of the original series. It will take a little bit of getting used to seeing your favorite characters portrayed by different actors, but they will grown on you .. fast.

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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

Links.

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Movie week : Movies every geek should see (5 of 5) : Hackers.

In movie week we list 5 movies every geek should see. The one I saved for last is a cult flick that will go down in history as the coolest but also the corniest movie about hackers EVER made. In 1995 it was pretty hard to explain to “Joe Shmoe” what the internet was .. let alone what a Hacker was. This did not stop Ian Softley to direct “Hackers” (1995 imdb) . An entertaining movie that tried to explain what a hacker was and how he could get into all kinds of trouble. Featuring (a then rather unknown) Angela Jolie the movie is full of strange 3D animations, Noob-proof dialoge and bright pictures to explain what the frack is going on. If you remember one thing about this movie it has to be the line “Hack the Planet” !

Hackers is available on Netflix but if you know how to torrent .. you will find it too.

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Movie week : Movies every geek should see (4 of 5) : The internets own boy.

The one thing that has upset the previous generations the most in the modern digital age, is that sometimes a 12 year old kid could come along and be better at something then everybody else. No matter if you had a Harvard degree, or 20 years of experience .. Sometimes some kid came along and did stuff that made your jaw drop. This was the case with Aaron Swartz , a bright kid who founded Reddit. Aaron was an exceptionally gifted person with his own views on freedom of information. This often clashed with a surrounding world that was not quite ready for his pioneering vision. Unfortunately Aaron is no longer with us .. and the sad story why this the case can be discovered in the full documentary below. A “must-watch” !

 

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Docuwiki : Take notes everywhere … seriously … every-where !

Greetings blog readers!  It is I, Matt, the stay-at-home g33kdad in Northern California.  I am writing today to discuss a topic that has been much on my mind lately and that is “note taking”.  I know, Y A W N, right?  Who cares?  You open a google doc, you jot some stuff down… or maybe I used a MS word doc for that… where did I save that again… is it in Evernote… oh, here’s some paper, i’ll just write it down… but, then I’ll just have to type it up later… and what if I want to work on it at my mom’s house…and if it’s stored on some company’s server somewhere, what kind of privacy is there… nevermind, I’ll just play xbox.

So, in the spirit of T. S. Eliot who wrote that immature poets copy while mature poets steal, I steal this from Allison Sheridan of the Nosillacast Podcast, “What is the problem to be solved?”

The problem, as I see it, is keeping track of information digitally (whether or not the information started out digital).  Now, unless you have been living under a rock for the recent past, you probably have an opinion on “cloud” services and computing. There are many different services available.  The ubiquitous choice seems to be Evernote. Evernote is a service that allows you to store your notes on an internet accessible server.  This gives you access to them from anywhere you have an internet connection.  There are apps for all the major mobile platforms and for most desktop operating systems. This is a very full-featured service and very powerful, as well.

Another option is to use Google Docs or another hosted word processor. This is a great option because the interface is similar to MS Word or other word processing programs and most of the formatting options you would have on the desktop are available in your web browser.

While these are good options, they have some flaws. They require a third-party to host your notes.  Having someone else handle the server maintenance and software is great, but you have to deal with privacy concerns.  You also have to deal with connectivity to that service. What if you have an internet outage or you find yourself somewhere without wifi. (Do you go places without wifi?) How do you add, edit, or read notes? Also, some services may not be designed for robust note-taking.

When it comes to third-party, cloud services, my personal feelings are these: 1. Any technology can be used to make my life better. 2. Any technology I don’t own or control can be used to make my life worse.  So I have to make a choice. Do I want the convenience of a service designed to meet the need? Do I want to keep all my notes in plain text on my personal computer? Is there another choice?

I have decided that a wiki is a very flexible platform for what I want to do.  In case you don’t know, a wiki (see: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/wiki) is a web-based platform for colabrative documents. Anybody who has a user account on a wiki can edit the content, their edits are tracked, and they are available to the public or to other users of the wiki, depending on the configuration.  Wikis have a simple formatting syntax that is easy to learn and use.  Wikis are also designed to store digital information. Links and rich-text and even multimedia can be stored and accessed through a wiki.

dokuwiki-part2-shot2

There are some caveats to this.  Wiki software is a web app that runs (in most cases) on a webserver. So you need to have access to a webserver to utilize a wiki. This can be a shared hosting account, a vps, or a small server in your home. The requirements are minimal. In some cases, wikis can be complicated to set up.

So, what do I do? I use a package called DokuWiki. DokuWiki is related to MediaWiki which is the software that powers one of the most famous wikis in the world, wikipedia.org.  It is a powerful package and works great for note-taking. There are many plugins available to change the syntax, provide for different content types and many other extensions. I have installed it on my home server and use it most every day for my needs. But there was a slight hiccup.  I still needed internet access to make notes.  Not a big deal when I’m on my home network, but even with dynamic DNS, I won’t have access if I can’t get to the internet.  Then, I discovered the “killer app”. There is a plugin called sync (http://www.dokuwiki.org/plugin:sync). This plugin uses XMLRPC to sync content between two dokuwiki installs. It can sync individual pages, whole namespaces (like folders or sub-directories), or even entire wiki instances.  Now, I run linux on my laptop and it was a 5 minute process to start a full LAMP stack on my daily driver. (a full LAMP stack is not necessary, lighttpd with php and SQLight is sufficient) I simply installed a local instance of DokuWiki and set up the sync profile to sync with my home server instance.  Now, if I’m out somewhere with no internet access, I can still access my wiki via “localhost”.  Then, when I get home or to a location with wifi, I run the sync and I have a backup of my notes! Excellent.

I have just scratched the surface of the possibilities of using DokuWiki for online note-taking. There are so many other uses for a wiki and I know that DokuWiki is so easy to deploy, I will be using it again.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article.  More to come! 

You can find more of Matt online at  @sahgeekdad on twitter or via  g33kdad.thestrangeland.net

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Point the Way Home: DDNS with Linode

Guest Blogger: Keith Murray

Earlier this year I switched my web hosting from my long-time account at DreamHost to a fancy new VPS at Linode. I really did enjoy my time with DreamHost, but what I wanted out of my hosting provider had changed somewhat. I was looking for full control of a machine in the cloud. Although DreamHost does offer a VPS option, the pricing options just didn’t compare with what Linode was offering.

I also took the opportunity to move my domain registrations over to Hover, but more on that another time.

With my Linode account managing the DNS for my domains I was able to point a a single subdomain back at the IP of my home network, effectively giving me a nice publicly accessible domain from within my network. This worked well until my ISP changed the IP address I had. Admittedly this doesn’t happen often, but it always seems to occur when I actually need to make use of this remote connection, and with no knowledge of my new public DHCP address it’s pretty useless.

Enter DDNS.

With some modifications to a script I found on GitHub I was able to quckly set up job to check my public IP address and update the DNS records at Linode using the Linode API. I hacked apart the original script and put together my own DDNS update script, suitable for automating.

By scheduling the script to run using a simple crontab entry I can rest assured that every night, while I’m asleep, my server will be connecting to Linode to point the way home.


Keith Murray is a software architect and developer who blogs about technology and science at kdmurray.net. He can also be found on twitter as kdmurray.

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