Monday, January 28, 2013

While you are talking, is Verizon listening?

As this is my blog, I would like to share something that doesn't have anything to do with Gigastrand at all.

I had a conversation recently with a friend via cell phone (like there is any other way anymore) and we both have Verizon for our phone service. He was telling me about a problem he would have to fix onsite and would have to reference information or files on the internet using their laptop but could not use the customer's Internet service.

"Why not just use the mobile hotspot service?" I asked.

"I haven't set it up," he replied.

"You don't need to set it up. It comes with your plan."

"Really? The guy at the Verizon store didn't tell me that!"

"Well, next time you just need to come to me and I will set the record straight."

Not 15 minutes after we hung up, a representative from Verizon called to inform him specifically about his hotspot service.

Now, the coincidence is undeniable. I know the technology exists to monitor calls for certain words and phrases but until this happened, I figured it was more of a government anti-terrorism thing not something for private enterprise to exploit.

I am used to seeing ads follow me around on Chrome and Google tracking my web searches but for some reason it makes me uncomfortable to know that there is a computer at Verizon listening to conversations on my phone.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gigastrand OS: First Alpha Test Systems Are Out

A few Gigastrand OS Alpha test systems have been sent out for test market to a limited number of participants.

The program is designed to get the OS into the hands of actual consumers to test the marketability of the OS as well as its features. This is the start of an expanded program where people can provide their own hardware to test and give feedback.

This is a limited test for now with only a hand-picked few able to participate. Gigastrand will expand the program once a viable BETA has been released.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Cloud vs Sneakernet

Why a drive in the hand is better than file in the cloud and will most likely stay that way.

I use cloud services like Google Drive and Spideroak, but I still carry an SD card - no, not my driver's license. I  still carry a 16Gb flash memory card with all of the Gigastrand documents on it. It goes from my office to my home so I can do work. It is a part of my sneakernet.

For those who do not know what a sneakernet is: A sneakernet is simply walking (possibly using your sneakers) data from one computer to another using removable media. If I did that in the office that would be a LAN sneakernet. When I get in my car and drive it somewhere else, that would be the WAN (internet) side of the sneakernet.

This drive has gone from a 320Gb external hard drive to a 16Gb SD card in part because of an increased use of Google drive for much of my regular Gigastrand documents. While cloud services are fantastic for a great many things, my sneakernet is a long way from going down. Here's why.

  1. Limited Internet - Speed is not relly the issue but if I have to download then upload my file every time I wanted to work on it, the bandwidth usage would add up quick.
  2. Limited services - Google drive has done well to add functionality to their Drive service, but it is still very limited. I can convert OpenOffice Writer and Calc to Google drive but like most conversions it is not perfect. I have had to re-create many of my documents that I wanted on Google Drive and as an advanced OpenOffice user, others simply do not translate well at all. 
  3. Limited space - 5Gb of space is enough for many users and suffices for me as well - for now - but when I can buy a 16Gb SD card for $15 it sort of negates the value of the cloudspace.
  4. Expense - As I just mentioned, paying for more space just doesn't make sense. When all you pay for is storage that only happens to be online, then the value should at least be equal to the storage you can get purchasing from 

The expense argument does not quite add up because when you use cloud services you get backup management and access to your data anywhere you have internet access. Not to mention you do not have to worry about losing your drive. All this does have some inherent value.

Regardless, the cloud has made data more convenient, but it is far from a replacement for the good old sneakernet. Just like computers and tablets have still not replaced paper.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gigastrand OS: First real bug found / squashed

If I might show my inner nerd for a moment.

Or, well, again. Just like all my other blog posts I guess. Seeings as I blog about Linux and tech and the OS my company is building.

So, I needed to do some work at the office over the weekend. Not really wanting to work all that hard, I brought my Star Trek the animated series to the office and was going to play them on the server. I pop the disc in and...nothing.

Ok, may be the server. So I tried it in my laptop. Nothing.

I went through all sorts of players. Dragon Player, Mplayer, VLC, UMplayer. None of them worked.

Now some of my fellow Linux Geeks may have already solved this issue on their own Linux boxes. It really was not a huge issue, but Debian - for international legal concerns - has left out the library to play commercial DVDs.

This is where I found the libdvdcss to play DVDs and several other projects. It is now included in the Gigastrand OS.

Ok, so not really much of a bug but so far, we have not really seen many issues we can really call "bugs". This is more of a shout-out to VideoLan for providing a solution to this issue.

Yes. I really like Star Trek.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Rant: Windows is a toy & iOS not what you think.

Over Christmas, I had the great fortune of conversing with one of my relatives about what is better: Android or iOS.

Now, for those who follow this blog or may have the misfortune of actually knowing me in person, you already know where this is headed. My wife sure did and tried to keep us as far apart as possible.

Before I go further, I do want to stress that I do not believe that any manufacturer of devices or software mentioned herein makes a bad product nor am I attempting to disparage the users of said devices or software.

"iOS is the ultimate of everything." Yup. That is indeed what he said and some of you reading this may agree. Those of you who do may be very proud of your iOS devices and may be - let's say - enthusiastic about how well you can operate your iOS device. 

This particular relative was overly enthusiastic to the point of being smug. In the interest of the holiday, however, I bit my tongue and only said "You really do not know how wrong that statement is, do you?"

iOS is very good at one thing: making their technology accessible to the people that really do not understand technology or, those who have better things to do than try and learn some new device.

In other words, iOS is designed to be easy to understand, easy to use, and easy to get. The fact that you think it is the "ultimate of everything" only illuminates your total ignorance of anything technological. I am glad iOS works well with your skillset. I know how to use a hammer and a screwdriver really well but I would be woe to do much with them if they were the only tools I knew.

Now, I like what iOS has done with their system with regard to their target audience but I am not their target audience. I recognize that Apple has done a good job of making a limited OS very easy to use.

I also recognize that Windows has a good idea but that idea is poorly implemented. They have taken a common interface and installed it across devices - good. The problem is, that they have now turned their desktop OS into a toy. It is no longer focused on productivity, but on making it look the same as your phone and tablet. Not to mention that this very interface is more about social media than doing business. Fine for the individual - not for business user.

I use Android devices because of their flexibility and openness but these devices have their limitations too. 

In fact, regardless of the mobile OS (Apple, Windows. or Android) they are all compromises. They were designed to run on cheaper, less powerful hardware so many of the capabilities have been stripped out of the OS. 

Apple is probably the worst offender - as many a Samsung commercial has pointed out. They control the hardware and what they offer the consumer is technologically less advanced than nearly all other devices on the market at the time it is released. It seems to be just the bare minimum of what people expect a newer model to be with little or no real innovations at all.

I also know that many people think that a Windows phone runs the same OS as a Windows PC. It does not. The interface looks the same, but essentially what runs on your phone and tablet is Windows 8 mobile edition.

Now, having said all of this, the bottom line is that you have to decide what works best for you. Everything is a compromise and regardless of what you choose, know that it is not going to be "the ultimate of everything" but it will be the device and OS that best fits your needs.