Blog Index

Is Apple preventing hardware repairs/upgrades for forced obsolescence?

(September 13, 2017)

A couple days ago, Apple unleashed the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 plus, and iPhone X. These are the new wave of iPhone's with which Apple is expecting to see a huge burst of sales, helping to goose Apple's profits ever higher, pushing Apple's stock price ever higher. The business goal, therefore, is for a large number of us iPhone owners to upgrade to the latest-and-greatest so that we fill Apple's coffers with money propelling Apple's stock price ever higher. Earlier I wrote about a smart way to get the latest and greatest for a fraction of the cost -- simply to delay purchasing the iPhone 8 or iPhone X until 2+ years from now when the price falls to a reasonable level. The contrarian way to save gobs of money on the new iPhone 8 or iPhone X

Apple's plan to force us all into planned obsolescence goes much further than dangling tantalizing new iPhones in front of us. The very design of Apple's product line actively prevents repair, and Apple's service policies mean that Apple's service technicians will not perform board-level repairs but instead push you into more expensive repairs.

The contrarian way to save gobs of money on the new iPhone 8 or iPhone X

(September 12, 2017)

Yesterday, Apple did their best to wow us with their technical prowess and drool over the new features in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. The numbering of these devices is even news-making considering that Apple skipped past the iPhone 9. Are you among the throng chomping at the bit to buy one of these new phones? And are you checking your bank account and maybe considering taking out a second mortgage to pay the price?

Let me suggest a way to save a lot of money on these devices in a very straight-forward strategy that is also full of environmental goodness. You might even use this strategy as a way to send a message to Apple that you want an iPhone with a headphone jack.

Scotty, a.k.a. The iPhone Guy, has made awesome videos on iPhone technical innards -- who is he?

(September 11, 2017)

Over the past few months a pair of mind-blowing videos have been made based in the parts markets in China. Scotty, the iPhone Guy, started with the question -- these markets have all kinds of spare parts for iPhones, but can you assemble enough of those parts to build your own iPhone. It took him a few weeks to accomplish the task, but he did so, and that phone works. For the second video, he wanted to add a headphone jack to the iPhone 7, which ended up as a grindingly difficult project that took 17 weeks to finish. But, it works. The question is whether Scotty will only do iPhone projects, what's his motivation, is he going to do more work like this, and so on.

He has a broader plan in mind, to explore other technology hubs, to explore the technology supply chain, and so on. We can expect his work to have great technical depth, going into literal nuts and bolts.

This video is an interview with Scotty as they walk through the building housing those electronics markets.

Why use Google Chrome on Linux versus Chromium or Firefox

(September 3, 2017)

Theoretically Firefox is Free, and especially Free from spyware, whereas with Chrome we do not have the same level of assuredness. Google has a high positive reputation because of the Don't Be Evil mantra, but we're all questioning whether Google has gone to Evil. But if you run Firefox and Chrome side-by-side it's clear that Chrome is far advanced over Firefox. Additionally, Firefox does some bad things. The video has details for you to consider.

Automatically load Live TV & DVR on the Raspberry Pi & HDhomerun & PLEX

(September 3, 2017)

This is update to an earlier video series over getting rid of the Cable TV box, and instead using the HDHomerun box from Silicon Dust. In this update we're shown how to set up a Raspberry Pi running Kodi so it automatically goes into the HDHomerun Kodi Extension. The result feels exactly like a regular Cable TV box at a fraction of the up-front cost and with zero ongoing cost.

Is Apple ruining MacBook Pro or iMac performance with crappy cooling hardware?

(September 2, 2017)

Apple's design mantra is to make ever-thinner computers that weigh less, yet somehow pack in amagingly powerful CPU's and other hardware. Thinner-lighter computers are attractive, for example a MacBook Pro is much easier to carry around than (say) an oversized Dell laptop. But this comes at a cost -- the cooling system sucks. Apple's computers run hotter than computers from other vendors. Intel designed the CPU so that, if the temperature rises too high, the CPU throttles itself. In other words, it's possible that Apple's anemic cooling hardware makes it impossible to reap the full benefit of the CPU.

It's bad enough that since 2013 Apple began soldering memory chips to the logic boards making it impossible to upgrade/replace memory, and at the same time charge a rip-off price for memory.

A look into the YouTube Adpocalypse - Video Blogger shows how his revenue has dried up

(August 30, 2017)

This YouTuber takes us into his videos management console for an inside look into what some call the YouTube Adpocalypse. This guy has been posting videos since 2008, and developed into a focus on Linux. Early on he didn't care about the revenue, but as it grew (both his subscribership and revenue) his attention changed. Recent policy changes at YouTube are causing his video to receive limited advertising, and therefore limited revenue. That in turn is causing this fellow to (understandably) think about slowing down on making videos.

Is Google/YouTube -- in seeking to cater to creators with larger audiences -- starting to kill YouTube?

How do I boost traffic to a new or established blog website

(August 25, 2017)

Most websites exist to inform the public about something-or-other. The website owner may have another goal in mind, like selling products, or advertising their dental practice, or covering the latest news on Afghanistan, or any of a zillion other topic areas. Regardless of the larger goal, every website exists to inform people about topics chosen by the website owner. Pretty much every website owner hopes to generate a large audience, one large enough to justify their effort on the website. Generally speaking the more traffic on a website the more opportunity to satisfy goals like selling things to the audience, earning revenue, and so on.

In other words, one of the primary questions of all website owners, whether they just started or whether they've been publishing websites for 25 years, is how to get more traffic. The problem is most of the advice out there is overly packaged in pristine marketing-speak, and loses sight of another core purpose -- informing the public.

Non-censorable video platform DTube offers possible adpocalypse solution

(August 25, 2017)

Is the YouTube Adpocalypse a form of censorship? The YouTube creators who no longer earn advertising from YouTube are crying about the loss of ad revenue. It doesn't amount to censorship, however, because YouTube isn't blocking those videos, just not putting advertising revenue on the videos.

A new video platform, DTube, doesn't block content and offers a method to earn cryptocurrency from your videos, that can be converted to Bitcoin that can be converted to regular fiat currency.

Daily Stormer's new domain registrar wrings hands and cancels dailystormer.lol domain

(August 20, 2017)

A week ago a hate-filled group of fascist KKK nazi protesters descended on Charlottesville Virginia, supposedly to protect the existence of a Robert E. Lee statue. That statue is one of many commemorating "hero's" on the losing side of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee being a famous General in the Confederate Army. Why do we even have statues commemorating figures from the Confederacy? In the early 1900's a group of people seeking a revisionist reframing of Civil War history got these statues installed. So when a KKK fascist nazi white supremacist group takes to the street to protect such a statue, they're not acting to preserve history but to continue whitewashing history.

In any case -- the Daily Stormer website actively promotes the KKK/fascist/white supremacist cause, and was deeply involved in promoting the protest rally last weekend. Since then, the Daily Stormer's domain registration has been canceled, and they've lost several other important services from at least Cloud Flare, Google and Zoho. For awhile the Daily Stormer website was available only through the Dark Web, and later it had a .ru domain (Russia), and then they registered a .lol domain. But now their new registrar, Namecheap, has canceled that domain registration.

Namecheap's CEO, Richard Kirkendall, wrote a long blog post about his decision. In it he says that no Domain Registrar should be making such a decision but that even though he recognizes there will be a strong backlash against Namecheap that he feels he made the right decision. That's because while the Daily Stormer website deserves as much free speech protection as the next guy, free speech protections should stop when there's an incitement to violence. The content of the Daily Stormer website is clearly aimed at increasing violence and hatred and inciting violence.

Using Raspberry Pi as Amiga emulator that's better than a real Amiga

(August 20, 2017)

The Amiga 1000 was a ground-breaking computer of the 1980's. Many of us think it was far and above better than the other computers of that time. Unlike the 1980's era Macintosh, the Amiga was properly multitasking and had better multimedia, and of course it was a zillion times better than MS-DOS. But then in the 1990's Commodore Computer Corporation went out of business after promising several advanced Amiga systems. That left Amiga fans stuck and abandoned.

Fast forward over 20 years, and the Raspberry Pi is a flexible inexpensive Linux-based computer that's inspired all kinds of hacking projects. In this case, an Amiga emulator running on Raspberry Pi allows you to run AmigaDOS applications.

A speed test shows that with Amibian, a Raspberry Pi runs 250 times faster than an Amiga A600. Running various heavy-duty applications run faster than on an original Amiga. This is under an EMULATOR, since AmigaDOS of course was written for Motorola 68xxx processors while the Raspberry Pi is an ARM processor.

Make a DIY ring light for DSLR or other cameras

(August 18, 2017)

Ring lights are used by camera buffs for macro-photography. It's an excellent way to light the subject of the photograph from the same angle of perspective as the camera lens. This is important for avoiding shadows. It's also desirable to have a softer light than a regular camera flash.

This DIY project inexpensively builds a circle of LED light units into a form that can be easily screwed onto the front of a camera lens.

Attacks on anti-Fascist and pro-Fascist websites stifling free speech

(August 15, 2017)

Web hosting provider Dreamhost is fighting a Dept of Justice order to release broad-ranging data about visitors to a website that organized protest rallies in Washington DC on January 20, 2017. That was Trumps inauguration day, and saw large protests, which the Dept. of Justice's Search Warrant called riots, against Donald Trump. The information demanded by the DoJ is "highly untargeted" and includes visitor IP addresses, along with contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people. According to Dreamhost, the web hosting provider, the DoJ's search warrant is an attack on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association.

Last weekend a protest by NEO-Nazi white supremacists in Charlottesville Virginia was intended to "protect" a statue of Civil War leader Robert E. Lee. That protest turned very violent, including an incident of a car used as a battering ram to drive into a crowd of peaceful anti-fascist protesters, killing one and injuring dozens of other people. In the wake of that protest the Daily Stormer website, billed as the most Genocidal website on the planet, has taken offline by web hosting provider GoDaddy over Terms of Service violations. Reportedly the Daily Stormer's staff has tried to shift web hosting to other providers, but has yet to find an agreeable hosting provider. Seems that publishing a website encouraging people to violence is against the terms of service.

What's common from these extreme ends of the political spectrum is the role the web hosting provider plays in implementing our right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association.

Any group denied the ability to host a website cannot speak their message to the world. Guaranteeing freedom of Speech and the other freedoms means guaranteeing that freedom for everyone, including those with whom you disagree.

Five years of Mars exploration with NASA's Curiosity Rover

(August 8, 2017)

One of the most successful space missions ever - the Curiosity Rover - has been on Mars for over 5 years. This amazing video is a time-lapse of the pictures taken by Curiosity as it has driven across the Martian surface. In the last five years it has driven over 10 miles.

Where does MySQL/MariaDB store database data files on Linux or Unix?

(August 8, 2017)

You launch the database server, give it a bunch of data to store, do you need to know where the data files are located? If MySQL or MariaDB does its job properly, the server just runs and runs with no need for further maintenance. But of course, software being software you need to do a bit more. For example, if the system crashes you might need to do a low-level recovery of the databases as I had to do - How to restore a MySQL database and tables from .frm .ibd or .myd raw database files

For various reasons you do need to know where MySQL/MariaDB stores its data files. It's not that hard to locate, and with a little change to the configuration file you can even change that location.

Live TV & DVR on the Raspberry Pi & HDhomerun & PLEX

(August 8, 2017)

This video series goes over getting rid of the Cable TV box, and instead using the HDHomerun box from Silicon Dust. Silicon Dust makes a series of TV tuner boxes that are extremely flexible and out-of-the-box supports streaming television content to devices around your home network. The devices support multiple TV tuners so your household can watch multiple TV channels simultaneously, and there are many software DVR systems that can interface with Silicon Dust's products. The HDHomerun device is meant to replace cable TV boxes, letting you subscribe to cable TV systems without paying a monthly fee to lease hardware from the cable TV provider. Plus, because these boxes stream to devices over the local WiFi, there's no need to rent multiple cable TV boxes.

The project uses the PLEX media server, including running the PLEX software on a NAS drive. In the second video he presents a very expensive solution. In the third video he presents a preferred setup using a Raspberry Pi as the DVR running LibreELEC, the Raspberry Pi version of Kodi. The result is a very nice looking DVR and TV Tuner. A NAS drive is used as mass storage for the DVR, and he also integrates Kodi/LibreELEC into an existing PLEX media server he has on his network.

It's claimed he saves about $60 per month on cable TV fees. You can completely eliminate cable TV fee's by using over-the-air television, and Silicon Dust sells products for that purpose.

Kodi is a system for organizing "Media", whether that's Audio, Video, TV Shows, or Photos, for viewing on televisions. It has a "10 foot" interface meaning it's meant to be used from the couch via a remote control. LibreELEC lets you run Kodi on small computers like the Raspberry Pi.

Aerial update of Apple's new Spaceship campus, July 2017

(Thu Jul 27 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Apple is building an iconic new "spaceship-like" campus in Cupertino. These drone videos show the current progress.

Organic Transit's ELF, solar powered car-bike for driver + 2 kids, equals 1800mpg

(Thu Jul 27 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

This car-like vehicle is actually a bicycle, fitting all the legal restrictions of bicycles. With three wheels it is very stable. With the outer shell, the driver has some protection against the elements, and there's a cargo area in the back to carry groceries or even kids. It is an electric-assist bicycle, and can be fitted with a solar array.

Build your own DIY portable wireless TV from spare laptop parts

(Thu Jul 27 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Want to build a portable "TV" video display unit? An old laptop screen serves as a great starting point for building a display panel, and an HDMI driver board makes it easy to connect the display to a computer. The next step is adding a battery pack, making it portable, using a pair of voltage regulators to set up the 12 volts and 5 volts required to power the components, and an external charger to recharge the batteries. A sound bar is easily buildable using a set of small speaker drivers and audio amplifiers. The "television" portion is a question mark, however since it's nearly 2020 we can easily connect this to the Internet for video streaming using a Chromecast or other HDMI gizmo. The parts can be easily enclosed in a case, and voila you have a complete and portable video display system.

Facebook moves towards paying content creators sharing "art" in the news feed

(Sun Jul 23 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

While YouTube's moves make us think Google will push small-scale content creators out, Facebook appears to be inviting them (and their content) to Facebook's news feed. What's in play is those "content creators" with large audiences, and the advertising revenue that can be earned through such a channel. So far YouTube has been a premium place to play that game, because all it that's required is for someone to develop a video presence attractive enough to draw in enough audience to keep people watching your videos and the ads which come along for the ride.

On the flip side is Rights Management services so that piracy doesn't run rampant. To that end, Facebook has acquired contents rights management company Source3.

As Google commercializes YouTube, individual "creators" may be squeezed out

(Fri Jul 21 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

When YouTube launched all those years ago, before Google bought YouTube, it was a video service allowing anyone to upload videos about anything they wanted. Cat videos, a guy with a light saber, another mouthing words to a popular Romanian song, more cat videos, the FAIL videos, a girl sharing with us a fake scripted life, and on and on. We all built up a cycle of activity around YouTube. Some people just posted whatever, for example the people trying out stunts, yelling "watch this", then falling flat on their face or worse. That genre has evolved to where people filming extreme stunts sometimes fall to their death while filming the stunt. Others made a business for themselves, for example the Grow Your Greens guy taught many people about gardening while clearly earning lots of revenue from advertising running opposite his videos.

Maybe it's one of those it's too good to last deals, but lots of people used YouTube as a platform for launching careers in independently produced video commentary on whatever they want to say. Lately there are signs that Google is moving towards making big money deals with big incumbent entertainment studios. At the moment the independent producers still have a place at the table, but the commercial content from mainstream media is encroaching.

Are we on a slippery slope where YouTube won't have any space for individual content creators?

US Postal Service introduces Informed Delivery, a Big-Brotherly preview of incoming postal mail

(Thu Jul 06 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Today the US Postal Service sent me an email inviting me to sign up with Informed Delivery. The pitch is that the USPS Mobile App will be upgraded to have access to Informed Delivery which is described as "a new, free feature that gives you the ability to see a digital preview of your incoming mail." Conveniently the Postal Service will send out grey-scale scans of the exterior of all pieces of mail arriving at the mailbox, and those scans can be viewed with the Mobile App or can be sent to ones e-mail inbox.

I'm not sure what the value is to me for this service. The big worry is that obviously it means the Postal Service is scanning the outside of every envelope, and what the heck are they doing with those scans? Who else is receiving those scans? The NSA? The FBI? Who?

Scientists looking for a Giant Elephant at the center of the galaxy; Taking pictures of Black Holes

(Wed Jun 28 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Nothing escapes from a Black Hole, yes? That means it's impossible to take a picture of a black hole because the photons you'd capture for the image cannot escape the black hole. Therefore, how do you take a picture of a black hole? Astrophysicists are working on a system to sort-of take such a picture. They've observed orbits of stars at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, and deduced there must be a super-massive-black-hole. How do they verify this assumption?

While one cannot take a direct picture of a black hole, there is supposed to be (according to Einstein's Equations) a big light show at the Event Horizon. Imaging THAT for the Milky Way's super-massive black hole would require a telescope the size of Planet Earth.

A telescope that size isn't practical. Instead, Astronomers are piecing together a large telescope by slaving together radio-telescopes around the planet, and using computer-aided-image-analysis to put together the whole picture. The effect is a virtual telescope the size of the planet. They expect to have the first images later in 2017.

A key in the effort is to not prejudge the content of the images. They can't just program Einstein's Equations into the image processing algorithms, because that would just give them the images Einstein predicted. Instead they need to remain open to any possible result, and then be pleasantly surprised if the result confirms Einstein's predictions, or to learn from the result if they do not confirm the prediction.

Using VNC to access remote desktop on Raspberry Pi or other computer behind a NAT firewall

(Wed Jun 28 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Connecting to a remote computer is very powerful, because you can access remote files, remote applications, and so forth. Those of us building home automation or other Internet of Things devices sometimes install those devices at a remote location behind a NAT firewall, and then need to access the computer's desktop environment. For example, I have a Beaglebone Black at a remote site over 3000 miles away, and needed to run Firefox on the BBB to access some things. It's not feasible to go to the device in person, therefore the question is how to access the remote desktop.

VNC is the primary choice for this purpose. It has a lower bandwidth requirement than running X11 over the Internet, plus you avoid the complexity of installing an X11 server on Windows or Mac. Simply install a VNC client, instead. The key hurdle is getting past the NAT router.

Colossus & Other Early Computers

(Sun Jun 25 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Colossus was designed during World War II for one purpose -- decoding top secret encrypted messages sent by Germany using the Enigma Machine. Germany thought their messages were safe, but the Allies had cracked the code using these computers, and were therefore able to win the war. The Colossus was purpose built, is not a general purpose computer but instead performs a specific processing task. Several instances of the Colossus was built during World War II.

The Harwell Decatron was designed to automate mathematical computations which it did for several years.

Make Live: PiKon Raspberry Pi Telescope

(Sun Jun 25 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

The PiKon Telescope combines the Raspberry Pi, some PVC drain pipe and a few 3d printed parts to become a high power telescope capable of some impressive astrophotography. This video goes over building the thing. A primary problem is that the official design uses a type of PVC pipe easily available in England, with a 5" diameter, that isn't available in the USA. You can order a kit of parts from the fellow in England.

The design is a reflector telescope, meaning that a key component is the Mirror assembly that fits in the back of the tube. At the other end of the tube is a "spider" that holds the PiCamera and handles the focusing.

It uses a regular PiCamera with the focusing lens removed. Focusing is handled by moving the camera assembly back and forth.

Top 5 Single Board Computers 2017

(Sat Jun 17 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

What are the best linux-single-board-computer's? There are many of these things, and running linux on a tiny computer is awesome, but the wide variety makes it difficult to choose. Do you go with the Raspberry Pi just because it's the most popular? Or because your buddy down the street got one? Some of these computers have significantly important features giving a clear advantage for certain purposes.

Apple updates entire product like with Kady Lake processors and more

(Sun Jun 04 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Today, the WWDC 2017 conference launched in San Jose, and Apple announced broad-ranging updates to most of their hardware. The 10.5 inch iPad Pro was completely redesigned. HomePod is Apple's answer to smart speaker products from other companies. The iMac has been hugely upgraded, including a very powerful new iMac Pro. The iMac Pro will be configurable with up to 18 core Xeon processor, 128 GB of memory, two external displays, an ultra-high-end GPU, and more.

Google's Chrome to start blocking ads of some non-Google ad services

(Thu Jun 01 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Google makes a lot of money off of Internet advertising. Advertising services are Google's main income stream off which they've built a humongous business. There are lots of crappy abusive advertising practices on the Internet, and Google plans to change Chrome to block some of that advertising. It's important therefore to question whether Google's plan to block some advertising is legitimate.

First Semi-final-results in Eurovision 2017

(May 9, 2017) The Eurovision 2017 contest is this Saturday, and today was the First Semi-Final. Of the 20 entries today, 10 have been selected: Moldova: Hey Mamma by Sunstroke Project; Azerbaijan: Skeletons by Dihaj; Greece: This Is Love by Demy; Sweden: I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson; Portugal: Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral; Poland: Flashlight by Kasia Moś; Armenia: Fly With Me by Artsvik; Australia: Don’t Come Easy by Isaiah; Cyprus: Gravity by Hovigp; Belgium: City Lights by Blanche. These include some very intriguing songs, and some leaving me going WTF.

Blade Runner 2049 - the 'Reboot' that looks worthy of the original

(Mon May 08 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT)) Blade Runner is an awesome movie with deep questions about humanity and the creations we make. Blade Runner 2049 is a reboot movie, and given the ridiculousness of most 'reboot' efforts I'd expected the worst from it. The official trailer makes me stand up and take notice. If the movie lives up to this trailer, it will be just as awesome as the original.

Overthinking Eurovision with the biggest Eurovision Gimmicks of 2017

(Sun May 07 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT)) Eurovision is a kitschy song contest with pretentions of Great Importance. That makes it very easy to overthink Eurovision entries. This video is a deep dive into two of the best entries in Eurovision 2017, My Friend from Croatia, and Yodel It! from Romania. I love both of these songs, and wow this guy does a great bit of over-thinking. I'm also tossing in a few videos made by Ilinca, the Yodel It singer, because I like them very much.

Brickerbot, vigilante software aiming to kill malicious botnets by killing IoT devices

(April 24, 2017) The last few months has seen escalating botnet activity on the Internet. The botnet operators are targeting non-existent security in certain Internet of Things devices. Some devices, like wireless security cameras or baby monitors, are not only connected to the Internet, but have gaping security holes. Using those holes, botnet operators have ammassed vast flotillas of Internet devices that can be commanded to attack targets on the Internet. Last fall several attacks, larger than any previously seen, attacked several large sites and even brought down critical Internet infrastructure on a few instances. The Brickerbot appears to be a Botnet purposed with destroying those malicious botnets. One hopes the cure is better than the illness.

Lenovo Flex 11 / Yoga N23 Chromebook Unboxing

(April 20, 2017) The Lenovo Flex 11 is a new 11 inch-screen Chromebook with 4GB memory, 32GB storage. It has both USB-C and USB3, plus a full size HDMI output. The trackpad on the review unit has a little bit of travel before the click occurs. It has a Mediatek ARM processor, and gives a 9990 Octane score. Because the screen has fewer pixels than some other devices with the same processor, it's believed the Lenovo Flex 11 will perform better than the Acer R11. The price range is $230-270 and is a good value for that price, and should be very good around the home. Because it also has Lenovo Yoga branding, it has the hinges required for the screen to fold back allowing this device to act as a tablet computer.

The Real Reason We Never Hear From Monty Python Anymore

(April 20, 2017) Despite the impact Monty Python had on television and comedy, we don't hear much from them today. This video goes over the career progression of Monty Python members after the show closed down.

MQTT testing for IoT devices on the Raspberry Pi

(April 17, 2017) MQTT is a lightweight communications protocol meant for Internet of Things devices. It acts like a giant merry-go-round sending messages through a hierarchical structure of ports. It offers three levels of Quality of Service, from level 0 where messages can be lost, to level 2 where messages are held and resent if necessary. MQTT is easy to install on a Raspberry Pi or other Linux Single Board Computing device. MQTT itself is powerful, and the NODE RED platform (which is bundled in the Raspberry Pi) can make great use of MQTT and other facilities.

Protesting Trump from the edge of space, with a touch of Opera

(April 16, 2017) In what may be the first political protest from Space, the Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN) launched a balloon to near-earth orbit to send a message to the Trump Administration. Taking a cue from Astronaut Edgar Mitchel, who said 'From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter millions miles out and say: Look at that, you son of a bitch,' the message carried aloft by the balloon said exactly that. As in - Hey Trump, come up here and see what this planet really looks like, and what your actual responsibility is as a fellow human being.

Not even Darth Vader can get away with drinking and driving

(April 15, 2017) Recently Sith Lord Darth Vader was apprehended by Police in Mountain View while out on a mid-afternoon bender with an underage Storm Trooper. It's not known what furor will arise in the Imperial Senate, but the incident is proof that even Lord Vader is fallable. The ever-vigilant Mountain View were not swayed by his mind tricks.

British man invents a real-life Iron Man suit, and his name isn't Elon Musk

(April 15, 2017) Not many people would be brave enough to try this, so kudos to Richard Browning before we rip him for being so crazy. For the past 18 months he (an ex-Royal Marine) has been tinkering in his garage building a jet engine powered exoskeleton thingy. The video shows experiments with the machine, and that it is currently only useful for small hovering flights. The pilot steers it completely manually by moving arms and legs to direct the jet thrust. Which sounds cool, but also extremely dangerous at the same time.

Relive the glory days of Mac OS 7 on a Raspberry Pi

(April 12, 2017) Have fond memories of Mac OS 7 but unable to find an old Mac? With a simple Mac emulator, an inexpensive Raspberry Pi becomes a competent old-school Mac capable of running Mac OS 7. Oh, and all those old games. The video goes over what's involved, so have fun.

The 1972-era desktop sized iPod

(Tue Apr 11 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT)) Who says that before the iPod we could play one song/album at a time? Cassette players held one tape, and at up to 120 minutes per tape that meant about 2 albums worth of music, after which you'd have to manually switch the tape. Oh the inhumanity of it all, having to walk across the room to switch tapes. With a record player, you could stack multiple records and it would play one after another. For the most part we were stuck playing one, or maybe two, albums at a time. And we walked uphill, both ways, through the snow, every day to school. Actually, ingenious engineers created wondrous mechanical gizmos for many purposes, including this cassette-tape carousel. It held up to 20 cassette tapes, could play one at a time, or could play a programmed sequence, for up to 2 1/2 days of continuous music. AND, it was built in 1972. I bet Steve Jobs was having fond memories of this cassette carousel when he inspired Apple to create the iPod.

Install Chrome OS On Your Old Laptop PC or Macbook using Cloudready

(April 11, 2017) Chromebooks are excellent devices, offering a light-weight operating environment with great security features. You can buy ChromeOS devices with the operating system loaded in, which is a great choice. You may have an older computer sitting around gathering dust, whose useful lifetime can be extended by installing Cloudready. Cloudready is a ChromeOS distribution by Neverware that can be installed on a huge variety of x86 based computers. On the same hardware where Windows is SLOW, Cloudready runs FAST.

Official entries in Eurovision 2017

(April 7, 2017) Eurovision 2017 is coming up in May. All the entries have been selected and contestants are probably practicing and practicing to get ready. While there is an unwanted political kerfluffle between Ukraine (the host country) and Russia, we're looking forward to the contest. What's below are the official entries in the order listed on the eurovision.tv website. Curiously they're not listed in alphabetical order. Instead the ordering is, the first 18 are the running order of the First Semi-Final, the next 19 are the running order of the Second Semi-Final, and the last 6 are the countries which are pre-approved for Eurovision and are not required to participate in Semi-Finals.

US House votes to roll back internet privacy rules, Trump signed it into law

(April 3, 2017) Last week the US Congress voted to overturn Internet Privacy rules that had been enacted by the Obama Administration. As a result, the telephone companies and other Internet Service Providers will be able to sell our Internet browsing history and other private information to 'advertisers'.

Introducing Google Gnome (4/1/2017)

(April 1, 2017) After Google's success with the Google Home AI robot, Google is taking it a step further. The Google Gnome is designed to be used outdoors to finally implement the Smart Yard. Its functionality covers outdoors activities in the yard like turning the lawn hose on and off, or telling you wind direction and speed. The smart yard has finally arrived -- Meet Google Gnome. See how Gnome can transform your yard.

SpaceX in historic first reuse of previously launched rocket, unless it's a hoax

(March 30, 2017) SpaceX today made history with the first ever space-ship launch using a rocket that had previously flown. Today's SES-10 launch was flown by a Falcon 9 space-ship which had previously flown in April 2016. They had successfully landed that ship on their autonomous drone landing pad, then refurbished it, ensuring it was flight-ready, then flew it again today, and successfully landing the rocket on their landing pad ship. SpaceX's long-term goal is to reuse rocket ships multiple times, because the first stage rocket costs $60 million to build but only $200,000 to fuel. By reusing rockets, the cost of launching stuff into space will be drastically slashed, and humanity will be able to afford to launch more stuff into space. But - I said 'hoax' because there's at least one person on YouTube complaining the video is obviously a hoax. He latched onto the fact that for every landing, the video cuts out and they do not show the landing live, instead they magically show the rocket on the landing pad -- but -- cue sound effects -- obviously it's a fake, and they simply showed a different rocket on the ... sigh. Oh c'mon.

British Home Secretary makes chillingly authoritarian response to 'terror' attack

(March 27, 2017) Last week an angry man of Islamic descent (but born in Great Britain) rented a car, drove through a crowd on Westminster Bridge, killing several people, before killing a Police officer guarding Westminster Palace, after which he was shot and killed by other police officers. The killer may have been ISIS-connected (ISIS claims responsibility). In response British Home Secretary Amber Rudd named several online sites as hotbeds of online terrorism communication and radicalization. Her list included blogging platform Wordpress.com of all things. Her chilling message is there should be no secret places to hide.

Why do we need Skype et al on Chromebook - should Google do everything for us?

(March 1, 2017) Yesterday we wrote how to install Skype and other desktop software on ChromeOS devices, using Crouton. Today we ponder 'Why?'. Google intends the ChromeOS environment to provide a huge portion of our needs, but we went to a lot of trouble to install Crouton. Are we nuts? No, there are valid ideas going on here.

Block remote root login via ssh on Ubuntu/etc to keep your server safe

(2016-11-25 23:56) A moment ago I was checking the system logs on my Ubuntu server and found that in auth.log reports that someone was repeatedly trying to SSH login as root. The "root" entry in /etc/passwd is setup so that no password will ever be matched, so perhaps this potential cracker would never get into my server anyway. But the requests are using bandwidth - and what if they were able to figure out a password that would work? Why not just block remote SSH login access to logging in as root in the first place? It's a bad idea to login directly as root - instead the recommended best practice is to login as a regular user then use sudo to perform things requiring super user access.

Easily have quality Git server on your laptop with Gogs and Docker, and enable auto-push to remote repository

(2016-10-01 20:47) Github doesn't have to be the only game for git servers - while they run an excellent service, you can't install it on your own server, making it little better (in "Freedom" regards) than a closed source proprietary software package. Yes it's expedient to host your repositories on Github, but do we all have to cede this functionality to them? There happen to be several alternatives to github that offer a competent web-based git repository service. I've looked at Gitlab and now Gogs (Go Git Server) and while both are competent systems, I think I'll be running Gogs (in Docker) full time on my laptop. While both Gitlab and Gogs can run in Docker containers making it easy to run them full time in the background, Gogs is lighter weight.

Canon introduces a new mirrorless digital camera, Canon EOS M5, 24 MPixels of goodness

(2016-09-14 21:55) Canon has expanded their line of mirrorless digital cameras, the Canon EOS M series, with a new entry, the Canon EOS M5. It has a 24 Mega Pixel APS-C sensor. Also introduced is the new Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lens, offering a an almost 10x zoom ratio.

Setting up LibreOffice to access MySQL database with JDBC driver

(2016-08-24 13:21) I wanted to try using LibreOffice Base on Mac OS X to play with a MySQL database. I thought it would be easy, just connect to the database and start doing queries, maybe even pull data into a LibreOffice spreadsheet for advanced data munging. But doing the obvious thing got me messages like "No Java Installation found" and "the driver class com.mysql.jdbc.Driver could not be found". Further, yahoogling with some obvious search phrases turned up nothing. Finally, going to LibreOffice.org and looking at the official LibreOffice Base documentation showed no instructions on setting up JDBC MySQL with LibreOffice.

The demise of examiner.com, what's it mean for citizen journalism?

(Sat Jul 02 2016 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

It wasn't that long ago that online news sites began killing off the traditional news services. Many newspapers and magazines have either shut down (costing many cities a vitally necessary check on local government), or else shrank, or else transitioned to an online service. A generation of writers and journalists are under turmoil in a time period where we desperately need a check on the powerful elite. The 1% are in the process of doing grave harm to democracy and good governance around the world, and we need the Press to fulfill its rightful role.

One of the bright spots was the rise of citizen journalism - with one of the biggest such websites being examiner.com. Examiner.com allowed "anyone" to sign up to start writing articles, and had arranged with the likes of Google News to be a recognized news source. The result was .. uh .. spotty, since many Examiner writers did not try to practice proper journalism. A few, such as myself, did take the work seriously and produced good work through examiner.com.

The simple cure if a Wordpress custom content type doesn't display, but gives a 404 page not found

(2016-03-17 08:07) Sometimes custom content types stop displaying, on a Wordpress site.

How to restore a MySQL database and tables from .frm .ibd or .myd raw database files

(2016-03-16 22:05) Consider a situation - you've got a well tuned MySQL database server running some popular websites. The sites are implemented with Drupal and Wordpress, but using MySQL to store the content and settings. You think everything is fine, until one day you look at Google Analytics and are aghast to see zero traffic for the previous two days. You go to the websites and are greeted by a 404 error, with the server saying there's nothing there. You try logging into the server, but cannot, your login attempt is refused. You contact the hosting provider for help, and they tell you the directory containing all your websites and other files is completely empty. Oh.. and there's a note left behind from someone giving an http-something-or-other URL to click on, demanding payment in order for the server to be restored.

Big Brother touched Juniper Networks - backdoor allowed anyone to eavesdrop on communications

(2015-12-23 10:14) It's known the U.S. Government spy agencies have demanded "cooperation" from computer and networking equipment vendors in ensuring spy agencies can unlawfully tap into communications traffic. The effect is that anybody learning the secret keys used by government spies to wiretap communications can also listen in on communications.

If Wordpress is switching from PHP to Node.js, how should they do it?

(2015-12-17 08:54) Supposedly the Wordpress team is migrating Wordpress from PHP to Node.js.

Republican Presidential Candidates want massive violation of First Amendment and other American legal freedoms

(2015-12-16 18:49) We're in a silly season of U.S. presidential electioneering - of all people, Donald Trump is the leading Republican candidate for President, for example. Last night, civil liberties and the right to privacy was gravely threatened in the latest Republican Presidential candidates debate. Most of the candidates demonstrated they care nothing for our personal freedoms, and are willing to destroy American's freedom's in the name of "Fighting Terrorism". Donald Trump wants to shut down parts of the Internet, vaguely lacking in details. Sen. Ted Cruz says the recent San Bernardino happened because the FBI (et al) didn't do enough surveillance of online discussions. Carly Fiorina says that Silicon Valley needs to cooperate with Federal Officials to make sure they can tap into any conversation they want, and therefore spy on anything we say online.

Headless Wordpress/Drupal is galloping into view with Sleepy Hollow references tagging along for the ride

(2015-12-16 11:31) Headless Wordpress is becoming a thing, now that Wordpress 4.4 has been released and has some core support for a REST API. The Drupal world has seen Headless Drupal work for a couple years now, and the Wordpress community has seen the light as well. The advantages of decoupling the website rendering from content management are many, the biggest perhaps being the rapidly changing best practices landscape for delivering content to the display device. The capabilities at the client end are rapidly morphing, much more quickly than the release cycles of the content management systems.

Detect website visitors running ad blockers, gently remind them your livelihood is impacted

(2015-12-09 17:21) The adblockocalypse was supposed to make it impossible for website owners to make a living, because everyone is going to run ad blockers and we'd get no advertising revenue. Those of us who write on our websites have for years lived under the belief/hope that running advertising would give us a livable income letting us get on with the business of writing. While website advertising no longer works that well, it's an important component of the full monetization strategy every blogger or website author uses.

How to make a relaxing "false window" light panel (using old laptop screens)

(Oct 16, 2015) Old laptop screens have bright backlights. It's fairly easy to remove the LCD panel from the laptop display, and then take off the LCD portion, allowing the backlight to shine fully. This video shows how to construct a "light panel".

Avoid false spam decisions by Gmail's spam filters, stop losing critical emails in the spam folder

(2015-07-19 19:09) Gmail has done us all a great service by developing an excellent spam filter. I used to get hundreds of spam emails a day, and switching to Gmail reduced the spam rate to a few per week. No longer am I buried by spam. Of course the cost for this is to regularly visit the spam folder and see if Gmail accidentally marked any as spam (a.k.a. false positive for spam). Usually there's only a few and it's easy to click the "Not Spam" button to retrieve those emails back into the regular inbox.

Tame having dozens of open browser tabs in Chrome with the Great Suspender

(2015-06-05 17:48) I'm now primarily using a Chromebook for all my work - which includes software development on Linux, thanks to having installed Crouton. Since the Chromebook has only 4GB of main memory, things are a little constrained. I'm accustomed to running dozens of open tabs and on the Chromebook what happens is tabs are killed off when memory runs low, and if you revisit the tab it might cause a complete reload. That'd been bugging me until I found a new tool that completely tames open browser tabs.

46 Terabytes of data storage (for backups) sitting on a desktop

(February 27, 2015) Backing-up your data is extremely important. Say you've been carefully storing your pictures and videos, your personal memories, your family history, on a laptop computer, and you've carefully moved the picture/video archive from laptop to laptop as you upgrade. What happens if the laptop is stolen, if you drop it and the drive breaks, or any of the other mishaps that can happen. If that single laptop is the sole solitary place that data is stored, you're screwed. This video goes over a few data backup options, and strongly recommends storing backups not just at your home, but somewhere else as well. The price for data storage units are falling rapidly, and thanks to powerful/compact computation their capabilities are growing.

How to make a super bright LED light panel (for video work etc)

(Aug 27, 2014) Here's how to make a super-bright LED light panel. It's equivalent to a 1000w incandescent light bulb, and it's super useful for video work as it has a daylight colour temperature and doesn't use PWM for dimming. There are 900 individual LEDs in this panel, which is why it's so bright.

You can joyfully parse and manipulate URL's in browser-based JavaScript

(2014-08-20 00:05) URL's are not strings, but are a data structure that's represented as a string. How do you easily and reliably manipulate a URL string programmatically? Do you use regular expressions or other kinds of string manipulations? Given all the ways to encode data in a URL, how do you ensure it remains syntactically correct while doing string manipulation? Manipulating URL's with regular expressions is rather difficult because of the format and nature of a URL. It's better to manipulate a URL as if it's a data structure, to let software easily change URL fields while ensuring the URL is syntactically correct.

Lenovo Flex 10 SSD Upgrade and mini-review

(Jun 13, 2014) The Lenovo Flex 10 is a very light-weight Windows computer that is extremely easy to update with an SSD drive. The SSD makes it a completely silent machine, reduces weight, reduces power consumption, hugely improves performance, and in general makes the computer much better.

Chrome will become a new application distribution platform for any operating system - over time

(2014-05-09 13:22) What if a browser-based application can act in a desktop computer the same way as any regular application? Typically, browser based applications stay within the browser, and are launched inside the browser, while regular applications are launched through the regular desktop menubar or file system browser. Typically these worlds don't meet, but what if they did?

Ra - not just the Sun God, but a mighty fine programmers editor for Chrome for editing local files

(2014-05-07 23:22) I like my Chromebook (an Acer C720) because it's lightweight, slim, the battery lasts forever, and the performance is great. It's a wonderful machine on which to browse the web, run Gmail, Google Docs, etc. But there are several things I do frequently that is keeping me using my Mac desktop computer. The potential for freedom using the Chromebook is beckoning, but these use cases keep me chained to the Mac.

Accidental Amazon Kindle purchases: It's easy to buy for Kindle, and hard to return

(Fri Apr 04 2014 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT)) I like my Chromebook (an Acer C720) because it's lightweight, slim, the battery lasts forever, and the performance is great. It's a wonderful machine on which to browse the web, run Gmail, Google Docs, etc. But there are several things I do frequently that is keeping me using my Mac desktop computer. The potential for freedom using the Chromebook is beckoning, but these use cases keep me chained to the Mac.

How to fix Google Chrome crazily creating extra new tabs when opening a new browser tab

(March 17, 2014) Recently Chrome (on my Chromebook) began crazily creating a zillion new tabs every time I asked it to open a new tab. It was very painful, because every time opening a tab there was an explosion of new tabs being opened, and it meant trying to click the close-tab button to stop the explosion. At first I thought, "oh, Chrome got updated with a bug, they will sort it out, and issue an update." After waiting for a few days and it did not fix itself, I saw a note in passing that Google had changed something with the "New Tab page" .. and indeed, the excess new tabs being created had the URL "chrome-internal://newtab".

Review: The Past, Present and Future of JavaScript (Axel Rauschmayer)

(2014-03-15 22:03) You may have heard that the ECMAScript committee (that oversee's the standards for JavaScript) are working on the next version of the language. ECMAScript.next will probably become EMCAScript 6, and will mean some changes for JavaScript programmers. It may be useful for all JavaScript programmers to start understanding what those changes will be. That's where "The Past, Present and Future of JavaScript" fits into the world, helping us know what the ECMAScript committee is looking to do to the JavaScript language.

Review: How to Make Money Blogging by Bob Lotich, a so-so book on pro-blogging

(2014-02-07 21:08) I'm always interested in improving my understanding of how to make a living from writing. A few years ago I started writing blog posts seriously, getting the idea that I could make an impact on the world through writing, while earning a living doing so. That's what the book "How To Make Money Blogging: How I Replaced My Day Job With My Blog" is all about, the steps required to successfully pursue that version of the Great American Dream.

Chromebox for Meetings should decimate the incumbent audio/video conferencing market

(2014-02-06 12:49) Chromebooks are now being joined by Chromebox's, and we should start to wonder whether Chrome devices will represent a whole new wave of computing platforms. That is, will Chrome devices take a place alongside Windows PC's, Mac's and Android/iOS mobile devices as a major computing platform? I'm typing this on a Chromebook and have to say the experience is pretty good, enough that I haven't used my Macbook Pro for several days where previously I'd used it daily.

Here's why net neutrality is important, and why the Internet may have died this week

(2014-01-15 17:48) This week a federal appeals court overturned the FCC's ability to ensure open access to all websites. The details of what this means may get lost in the translation, but the image on the right encapsulates the problem very well. Now, with this ruling, Internet Service Providers will be able to block websites on a case-by-case basis for purely business reasons, and will be able to create a menu of addon "services" that we now enjoy for free.

VLC is a great way to transfer videos or other personal media to iPhone or iPad without using iTunes

(2014-01-05 12:11) We love our iPhone or iPad, they're beautiful machines, but try to do something Apple thinks you shouldn't do and you run into a brick wall. We live in a walled garden designed by Apple. It's a very pretty walled garden, but it can be frustrating at times. The example today is the desire to transfer those videos you own outright from your computer to your iOS device. Apple's preferred method to transfer stuff to an iOS device (iPhone, iPad) is through iTunes. The iOS devices are not, technically speaking, cloud computing devices, because Apple designed them to tether to iTunes. Apple, in its infinite wisdom, doesn't let the iPhone or iPad simply appear as a mountable disk on a computer when connected via a USB cable, which would make it trivial to transfer files back and forth.

Google+ Shared Endorsement's - probably everyone should turn them off

(2013-10-21 21:42) Google recently introduced "Shared Endorsements" which means Google will repurpose your Like's in advertising.  In other words, while showing an advertisement, the ad might show "So-and-so liked this" using data derived from your Likes or +1's on Google+.  This could be helpful to someone browsing for a product to see that their friend liked the thing.  That might influence a buying decision, right?

Google's Blogger now supports autoposting to Google+ pages

(Tue, 2013-09-10 07:10) The Google-Plusification of Blogger is proceeding, with Google now making it possible to immediately create a post on a Google+ page for any post made on a Blogger blog.  This raises the spectre of blogs roboposting and filling Google+ the way it happens on Twitter.  However, it's quite convenient to automate some of your social media interaction.  This is a new feature, and follows a move a few months to use Google+ for comments on a Blogger post.

Sony's new QX10/QX100 cameras are a marriage between Internet and high-res Photograph

(2013-09-09 11:08) Is it still a camera if there's no viewfinder or display screen?  Sony just introduced a pair of cameras meant to pair with smart phones.  But these are cameras unlike any we've ever seen before.  They're just a lens, sensor, and memory card, no display screen or viewfinder.  Which might leave you wondering just how to compose a shot.  However, these cameras are meant to clip to the back of a smart phone, and use the smart phone as the display.

A quick guide to buying the best SD card for a digital camera to shoot movies

(2013-09-07 00:31) As I wrote in (davidherron.com) a recent post, I'm buying a new digital camera.  That means thinking about which SD card is best to get for the camera.  Fortunately the memory card format war is largely over, meaning pretty much all digital cameras today use the SD card format, but there are multiple types of SD cards.  Primarily they vary on memory card speed and most of the card makers print a speed like "15 MB/second" on the card, like on my two-year-old card, or the one shown here which says 94 MB/second.

Feedspot takes lead as Google Reader replacement by making RSS export free

(2013-09-06 18:10)

The race for a credible Google Reader replacement has been on for months since the Google Reader Shutdown.  One of the contending services, Feedspot, just gained a big advantage with an announcement this morning that their RSS Export feature was now available for free accounts.  The RSS export feature had previously only been available with the paid accounts, and fills a big functionality hole none of the other Google Reader Replacements had successfully filled - easy export of your data from your Feed Reader.

Some of us Google Reader users had used it as part of a workflow of generating content for later re-use in other software or other venues.  We depended on being able to easily export items we tagged or starred, reusing them elsewhere.  For example, as input to a list of news items you'd put into a newsletter.

The general principle is that it's your data, and therefore you must be free to make use of that data.

Oddly named BazQux could be excellent Google Reader replacement

(2013-06-26 03:26) Recently my favorite iPad based news reader, (itunes.apple.com) Feeddler, announced they'd chosen their new back-end service - BazQux.  The race is on to replace Google Reader, and the Feeddler guy spent the last few months looking for an alternative back end service, and chose BazQux, leading me to go take a look.  It's a competent news reader that imports your subscriptions direct from Google Reader and does a great job displaying them.  However it has a fatal flaw for me.

The Old Reader probably not fit for new paradigms of news reading

(2013-06-26 02:34) The Old Reader was originally developed by people upset that Google removed social sharing features from Google Reader.  The idea was if Google was going to gut supposedly useful features from Reader, they'd develop their own Reader to preserve those features.  Fast forward a couple years and now we have Google about to kill its Reader, and Old Reader isn't quite up to the snuff of replacing it.

Newsify mobile news reader app supports Feedly, doesn't do tags

(2013-06-26 01:42) I'm looking for a Google Reader Replacement and in reviewing Feedly, I came across Newsify because it now uses Feedly as the back end.  This means that Newsify users can quickly switch from using Google Reader, to using Feedly, and still use Newsify to read the news.

Feedly is a great Google Reader replacement, almost

(2013-06-26 01:11) Feedly's newly launched Google Reader replacement is very good, with most of the Reader features I want.  While its' feature set is incomplete today, the company is clearly planning to implement everything and to be responsive to their user base in developing additional features.  I have a fairly specific workflow for processing news items, and Feedly does almost everything that I need it to do, including support for iPad applications.  Further, they're planning to implement the full API for Google Reader which should make it trivial for other news reader applications to hook into Feedly as a back end just as they used Google Reader in the past.
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