KW1201 – Less Is More

minimalist

Less. It’s often been said that less is more. For those of us who lean towards a more technology-inspired lifestyle it can often be challenging not to try out the next new thing. One more app, one more device, one more Linux distro. But maybe, just maybe, sometimes we’re better off seeing what we can accomplish with what we have, and maybe churning out a bit more stuff with a bit less gear.

Credits

Episode produced by Keith Murray
Home screen picture courtesy of MaxPixel

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Fight Your Digital Redundancy

Device Overload

How About “Just” the iPad?

Whenever I have been pack my bag for my morning commute I get annoyed with the sheer redundancy of the stuff I take with me. Here I am packing not one, but three or four “computer capable” devices into a bag to haul off to some office somewhere.

Not only am I carrying around more devices then I could possibly operate at one time, the software on these devices is redundant as well. For some reason I cannot fathom I have 3 different versions of Microsoft Word on my person. One on my PC, One on my smartphone and one on my tablet. It is possible to dream up a situation in which I might be required to use said trifecta of Microsoft’s favorite text-blender simultaneously… but that would involve an alien invasion and myself in the unlikely role of the geek that saves the world with a bulleted list.

Blame the Lizard Brain

So why do we (still) cling to this redundancy? The answer is simple: because it feels safe. After 7 years in the tablet era we still have not come to “trust” these devices in a way we trust our beloved PC’s (which by now are seriously starting to mimmic our tablets in both appearance and behavior). God knows its not because the tablet apps are by some means sub-standard or don’t offer what we need. The one major hurdle the tablet haters could never get over was the lack of an ‘actual’ filesystem on iOS or Android. Sandboxed applications drove them insane. Yet what do we see today? PC based operating systems are – out of sheer self-preservation – starting to move in a very similar direction. Windows 10 supports installation of unified apps from its app store (in essence a sandbox) and Linux is embracing a more contained approach to applications with their container-oriented Snap packages. With the average smartphone having enough RAM and CPU power to put a PC from 2013 to shame and even the most low-end tablet having a screen resolution that matches the TV in the living room, technical shortcomings are no excuse either. Then what is it that turns us into digital packrats?

The real answer is in the fact that we only think we are carrying around redundant devices because we make them redundant.

We install Word on our phone, our tablet and our laptop because we can. We try to read a spreadsheet on our phone because we can. We even try to edit family photos on a 7 inch laptop using nothing but our stubby fingers. All because we can. Certainly not because we have to.

Somehow with the overabundant availability of identical software on different devices we have started to think that we have to click on “install” everywhere. No wonder it feels redundant.

Specialization is the Key

If we truly where to look at the real strength of each device, we would figure out what do do where pretty quickly. Short messages and communication? Phone. Watching video’s on the go or browsing through news articles while sitting on the train? Tablet. Full blown posture friendly photo editing? PC/Laptop.

You see? No more redundancy. Instead you have a sense that your devices are complementary, depending on the task you do and the situation you are in.

Don’t do a 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle with chopsticks. Don’t use a lawnmower to trim your nails. Stay away from the firehose when you want to water that delicate orchid in the living room. Each device has its use, its purpose and its strength (just like you btw). So remember that next time you feel tempted to install Powerpoint on your smartphone: (to quote commander Scott in Star Trek V) “Use the right tool for the right job!” So ask yourself: “is this really the right device for the job? And if it’s not, do it somewhere else.

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KW1004 Microsoft Surface Pro 3

This week’s show is an in-depth look at the Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft. We tackle the hardware, the software and the applications that make this device a contender for a daily driver. We also have another great track from Daniel Messer. Let’s get into it!

Links

Music

Credits

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Ebook week Day 4 “The Kobo Aura ebook reader”

I hate paper books. I don’t know why. Some people love them, tell them they smell good, feel nice, love to put them on a shelf, stroke them, sniff  and do other deeds that I classify under “papyrus-porn.”  I have never been one of them. One of the reasons is that for the longest time I have been reading books that are hard to find (or just ‘not around’) in this part of the world. With Amazon these days its whole different thing. You can have your copy of Fifty Shades flown in by Drone overnight and your husband doesn’t even have to untie you to accept the delivery. But back in the late 90’s it was different. I loved sci-fi books.. I loved ENGLISH sci-fi books. I traveled all over the country to one or two obscure bookshops to pick up overpriced paperbacks of Star Trek Novels and all kinds of geeky stuff I liked to read. Behold my amazement when the internet came along and i could actually DOWNLOAD (perhaps not completely ‘legal’) copies of all kinds of wonderful stuff I loved to read. So when other people where tapping appointments with non-existing pens into their Palm pilots .. i was using the little buggers to read books on. Like some proto-geek I would walk around with this little PDA in front of my face .. reading.
hero
When Ereaders came along I was the first to hop on board. When other geeks were still trying to make fire .. i had my first Sony PRS505 and I loved it. I loaded up 700 Star Trek novels on it and kissed reality goodbye.  However the whole tablet rave broke the loving relationship between my Sony and me .. and I started reading books on my Tablet and .. my smartphone. “Why have a separate device to read books on, if you have tablet that can do books .. and the internet , and twitter, and Facebook, and porn .. ” (Kidding : i never said ‘Porn’!)  And that is where the problem is. (not with Porn of course) but with all the other stuff. The tablet might be ok for reading , but the urge to get distracted is enormous.
You can’t “hide in a book” when you are reading on your tablet. Its that simple. the amount of Dings, popups and temptations to quickly check Facebook are too damn high ! So this week I decided to get a Kobo for my birthday.
I went for the Kobo Aura because of 3 things. 1: Its small. 2: It has a backlight (so I can read in bed) and 3: it syncs with POCKET. The design is well done, the Kobo feels nice to hold and has a long battery life even though it has a wifi connection. This “should” enable you to buy books online and all that crap.. but what its awesome for is Syncing down all those articles you tagged for “i’ll read this stuff someday’ in Pocket.
 
The digital magazine.
So aside from reading the book I had put on the Kodo using Calibre (at night , with the nice backlight) I also have a little “digital magazine” in my hands. The Calibre articles sync down over the wifi connection and give me small byte-size reads when I don’t feel like diving into the next chapter of my book. The fact that there is hardly any other form of connectivity (there is a browser on the Kobo .. but come-on,) helps you stay focused and relaxed during your reading.
I am very happy with the Kobo. The form factor (and the fact it does not have a raised bezel around the reading area) make it enjoyable to use. Its big enough for reading, but small enough to carry around. The limited Wifi is an added bonus but its the Pocket integration that helps this baby shine. A perfect balance between connectivity with the grid .. while still offering the disconnected “seclusio

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Zen week : Guard your sleep cycle with f.lux

Its “Zen” week on Knightwise.com where we are going to give you some tips on turning you hyper connected lifestyle a little more towards the “pool of tranquility” that is a state of Zen.
Lets start out with a cool little app called F.LUX.

The screens on our devices (laptops , tablets, phones) are designed to mimic the blue hue of daylight as much as possible so we can enjoy a clear an crisp image and be “productive”. However, our brains and our sleep cycle are triggered by the presence or absence of daylight. As the sun sets it gets darker in the evening, our brain tells our body to get ready for bed and once we lie down we hopefully doze off. But RIGHT before you go to bed you quickly check your Facebook feed on the  super-daylight-bright display of your laptop. Your eyes notice the “Daylight color” and your brain thinks .. ” F*ck ! It’s noon ! ” and completely resets your bio clock. Result : You have a hard time getting to sleep ! And this is BAD for you !

F.lux_App_Review

So enter F.lux.  F.lux will adjust the color temperature of your screen according to the time of day.  In the morning your screen will have a much “warmer” color to match the rising sun. As the day progresses F.lux will adjust the brightness and color tone to “daytime” only to “wind it down” back to a warm tone in the evening. This puts less strain on your eyes and makes your laptop much more sleep-cycle friendly.

You can disable flux from the menu-bar icon for an hour or until the next day to prevent it messing up your colors when you are doing video editing or photoshop.

F.lux is free and is available for : 

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BLOG : Why the Acer Iconia W8 is the tablet for everyone .. and their dog.

When we got invited to Acer’s “A touch more connected” press event yesterday we kind of knew what to expect. Basically it was going to be a re-hash of the line of products and services Acer had presented at IFA earlier this year. Like every year Acer spreads it’s product line across the board. In a “Cross platform” approach they offer a variety of laptops, tablets and smartphones across the Windows and Android eco systems in a variety  quality for everybody’s budget. From a 69 euro Android smartphone to a 1700 euro convertible laptop .. Acer has something for everybody. With the  addition of their Chromebook line , Acer now dips their toe in another pool with 11 and 13 inch Chromebooks ranging from 250 to 400 euro.
Iconia_Tab_8W_front
If their is one constant in the acer product line is that you get (a lot ) for what you pay for. Depending on what device you pick (in what pricerange) you get quite a bit of value for money (See their Jade smartphone series) but try not to compare a 200 euro Jade with a 900 euro Iphone. Again .. you get (a lot) for what you pay for.
That trend was broken yesterday as through some tear in the Acer Space time continuum we were presented with the iconia tab 8 W tablet. This 8 inch tablet doesn’t look a lot different then the earlier iconia tablets Acer presented last year. These “Looks like an ipad Mini-Runs android-does not require you to sell your kid” tablets were interesting but not that impressive.   The iconia Tab 8 W  is light and  has a bright display (although it only has a 1280 by 800 resolution) that looks very nice thanks to Acers “zero Airgap” technology.  Its aluminum back makes it feel sturdy and with 32 gigabytes online storage it would make for a moderately interesting tablet in the lineup.  However, THIS is Acers first Windows tablet sporting a full version of Microsoft’s “Windows 8.1 -with-Bing” operating system. This means it sports the much debated Metro interface with a “full version” of Windows 8.1.  at your fingertips. The device reminds us of a lighter, cleaned up and better looking version of the Dell Venue 8 Pro we talked about in the last podcast. But the iconia Tab 8 has a better screen, feels nicer to hold and has a MUCH more interesting price.
So lets play “the Price is Right” on this one. How much would an 370 gram, 8 inch Windows Tablet with 32 gigabytes of storage, and , a FULL version of Windows 8.1. -with-Bing and a YEAR access to Office 365 and Onedrive  ? … The actual price is the very reason for this article. It is the very reason that this device falls out of line with everything that is currently available on the market with specs/services like that. Its … 149 euro’s.  !! For less then the price of a stupid B-Grade Yarvik Android Tablet (with Gingerbread) you get a full Windows device that lets you install ‘regular’ apps, pick apps Windows App store and use Office 365 for a whole year. Its rridiculous!
So what might this mean. This means that this physical device costs less then the cost of its Windows and Office 365 licence combined. It is a part of Microsoft strategy to fight of the rise of the Chromebook with the addition that THIS device lets you actually do things offline (or open up the command prompt 😉 ). The device is ONE TENTH the price of Microsofts Surface Pro 3 ! (ok , its a lot less powerful with only a Quad core Atom processor) but still.  This puts this tablet (and its Windows 8.1.  environment) in the hands of your kid to use for school/play/porn at a price point that is comparable to a pair of a Senseo Coffeemaker It is a disruptive price that might tear the Geek space time continuum a new one.
We haven’t had a chance to do a deep-dive with this device. But you know we are a sucker for ‘high value for money’ devices and .. at 149 euro’s we WILL be trying this baby out soon. It shows that the market is changing rapidly. From 900 euro high end smartphones to small 8 inch portable ‘computers’ at 145 euro .. this is going to be a VERY VERY interesting holiday season. By this time next year we predict everybody AND their dog will own some kind of computer. And at 149 euro’s a pop .. they probably can. 🙂

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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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kw805 : Whats in my bag ?

We return to the podcasting routine with a show that is packed with Gadgets and clever life hacks. Its time to turn our geek bag upside down and tell you not only what is inside of it, but also HOW we use it. Tune in and learn the secret of how to become the optimal, creative, productive and entertained digital packrat without shlepping around a portable datacenter on your bag. Hone your vulcan hearing as we tell you “Whats in my Bag” (and how do we use it).

Shownotes.

  • Intro
  • My routine
  • Whats in my bag
  • Less is more.

BONUS : The behind the scene “hangout” of this shows recording.

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kw803 : Girls Gone Geek

Its time to be Mr Journalist and cover Acer’s launch event for their Liquid E3 smartphone in Brussels and take some interesting interviews. We talk to two different sides from the girl-geek spectrum and interview Sunny, a ‘beauty blogger’ who just got her first smartphone and Mee Hyang, one of the members of the ‘Brussels Girl Geek Dinner’ who has been around the tech block a couple of years.  Both ladies give us their vision on technology and the “Girl vs Gadget” ratio in their lives. As an added bonus we talk to Lars Christensen, the Acer Product manager about some of the cool new functionalities Acer will be supporting in their smartphone and ask him the pesky question : ‘What is a PC going to look like in 3 years’.  Enjoy KW803.

Shownotes.

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