Digital Dark Age – And don’t tell me, Google is here to help?

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Today we have an article about a digital dark age and how all the data stored for this generation could be lost:

Technology could mean that our lives are lost to history, according to experts.

What experts am I left wondering and what could happen that would destroy all the data? Lack of backup’s? an EMP from the sun? No.

As the way that we store information about ourselves develops, memories stored in files that use older technology are becoming harder to access

So what does that mean? The medium in which it’s stored?  If say some data was on laserdisc would future generations have issues accessing it? Of course not, it would be read and brought onto a modern medium, or it could be put onto a modern medium now.  There’s no degredation when duplicating digital, so back up as much as you like!  Or is this vague statements relating to file formats? In 1988 I used a file format called .iff – and guess what, that data can still be read today.  Emulation is the keyword here as I can run the original Amiga application which I used at the time to create the file and open it with no problems.  The ability for clever coders to write emulators or conversion tools for old file formats won’t go away and if there is a potential historical significance to data at some time in the future, I’m quite sure the problem will be solved – and very easily.

evaporated because nobody saved it, or it’s around but it’s not interpretable because it was created by software that’s 100 years old

If nobody saves it then there’s nothing anyone can do.  Just like if I think up an amazing sonet and don’t write it down.  We have no problem emulating television transmissions or technology from the very early days of TV (if we so desired) so why is it any different for data?  Unless our understanding of the universe and our technology takes a massive shift from the direction its going in, then future PC’s are still going to have RAM, they are still going to have a CPU and, shock of shocks people will still be able to write code on them.  That’s not a far fetched prediction, I think thats based firmly in reality. Then we see who makes the remark, Dr Vinton “Vint” Cerf, vice president of Google – coincidently the same company digitising just about anything that moves (and that doesn’t too) – I’m sure if Google was allowed it would sit in the sewers of the world and digitize the waste paper coming down the pipes.  I’m sure Google would very much love to offer mankind a “solution” and have all the “important” data they elude to here, controlled and stored by them. So is this a prelude to an offer to “help” by Google? Google was in court in recent years over its plan to scan/digitize books.  You can read about that here.  It should come as no surprise that Google would have comment (and I’m sure offer to help) with this “problem” its creating.

…planned to scan every book unless publishers and authors specifically objected.

Source: No thanks Google, I’d rather have the sum of human knowledge stored on cassette tapes in a dusty warehouse underneath a large magnet field than “safe” in your hands.  Not because I think you’ll lose it, but because I think you want to own and control it. Google is rapidly falling out of favour with me.  Gone are the days where it was a trendy “be different” type firm.  Its now turning into an altogether different beast in my view.  I tolerate Google because I use the parts of its service that benefit me, but gone are the days that I support anything else the company does and I think its time people kept a closer watch on this company, lest we have another Microsoft on our hands in years to come…if they have not already become that whilst we have been distracted with the latest interactive Google logo on their search engine. This is fear-mongering in my view by Google and even if it ever became a concern, we should be looking at ANY other solution than Google.

Elementary OS – Feeling like paying them?

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I’ve advocated Linux and free software for years.  I still do.

Over the years I’ve also stated many times that proprietary software (and indeed software running on any other license) is fine with me, so long as the user is aware of the limitations and potential consequences of such licence.  That to me is choice, choice on the back of an informed decision and its also choice for the developers.

Elementary OS has a press release on their blog asking users to consider what they pay (or don’t pay) when they download their operating system.

we’ve decided to revise how we promote and handle payments. 

Now the first point is there is nothing wrong with charging money for work and time invested in a project.  Nothing at all.  Elementary OS is fully within its right to want to pay people for the time and work they have put in.  That’s fine.  Where I see the problem is when requests or payment start becoming more of a play on guilt, rather than a request for support.  Let me explain.

I firstly don’t use Elementary OS and certainly for the people over the years I’ve installed Linux for, there are far better (or at least just as good) distro’s in my opinion.  But that’s academic, people do use Elementary OS and I’m sure there are many happy users of it.

We want users to understand that they’re pretty much cheating the system when they choose not to pay for software. We didn’t exclude a $0 button to deceive you; we believe our software really is worth something.

And if I hadn’t read it on the Elemental OS page I wouldn’t have believed it.   Users who don’t/can’t pay are “pretty much” cheating the system?  Fine.  Don’t let them.  Don’t let a user get something for free if you don’t think they should and want paying.  Make it a purchase download.  Have the Elemental OS developers confidence in their product to do this?  It seems not, because if they truly think people are cheating the system by getting something for free then they should remove the ability to get it for free.  Whilst they give a reason for this, we can look at it later in the article.

If you are about to buy a new car and the salesperson says “well you can pay ##### for it or you can get it for free” which one will people choose in the main?  Its a perfectly normal reaction for people to seek out the cheaper option to save money and that goes no matter what pay scale you are on.   There are of course people who will pay regardless and to them any developer should be grateful.

This maybe highlights a big issue of open source software.  Whilst its turning out some of the best packages, there comes a time when someone, somewhere wants paying.  It’s the way of the world and until such time we live in a Star Trek future, things are not going to change.

I would love a world where all software was open source, available to all, but I understand why Elementary OS would want payment.  What I disagree with is the approach they take.  If for a minute all distro’s went pay only and I was buying one, it wouldn’t be Elementary OS.  I’ve my favourites and that isn’t one of them.

And it’s not like we’re making money to buy yachts;

And after the “cheating” comment, we seem to have a justification, is this saying “Hey, give us some cash, we are not living lavish lifestyles here” – fine, develop software elsewhere then.  Better yet, write your own OS from scratch, make it great and then you can have the yachts and you can “rightfully” retain the source code for yourselves.

It’s about asking a fair price to offset the costs of development. It’s about securing the future of elementary OS to ensure we can keep making software that millions of people love and use every day.

Millions of people? Where does this figure come from?  Total downloads? How do they know?  – I don’t want to get into a debate about how many desktop linux users there are on the planet, but looking at Distro Watch as an indicator (non scientific) it ranks Elementary as 9 (and down 900 views)  If the “millions of people love and use” had been referring to Mint I may have agreed.  I would go as far as to say if Mint was a forced purchase and Elementary OS was completely gratis, I’d go for Mint every time.

Another comment, seeming to me to be made in haste:

While we could rightfully disallow free downloads, someone else could take our open source code, compile it, and give it away for free. So there’s no point in completely disallowing it.

Let me change that a little.  Firstly let me ask Elementary to re-read the license.  Then they can add the word “rightfully” to the part that says “give it away for free” also.    And to be fair, I don’t think people would go to the bother of compiling the code and releasing OS free, with so many distro choices, it would be just another re-invention of the wheel and I can’t think of any feature Elementary OS has that is unique to the distro and hankered after by users that couldn’t be adequately accommodated in another distro.    Maybe someone can help there?  I can’t believe its Desktop is the unique feature/selling point in a world where we are migrating rapidly towards the web-based for all but the most traditional of packages. (Talking mainstream users now)

Most of the open source world is similar; Inkscape and GIMP

Distro’s are 10 a penny I’d suggest and in my view Elementary OS is not the definitive desktop Linux distro.   With Inkscape and GIMP all the developers efforts are focused to one project, that one project appears on many distro’s and other platforms.  The idea of contributing to the GIMP devs, I’d suggest is very different to that of a distro, where I’d guess if you used 1 different distro every day for a year you’d still have some left over at the New Year party.  Is that a bad thing in my view?  Not at all.  But putting this sort of approach on your users is a little out of order in my view because they have so much already to choose from.

If we want to see the world of open source software grow, we should encourage users to pay for its development; ……..or developers will have to resort to backdoor deals and advertising.

Reality check here.  The world of open source is growing and its not growing by distro’s or software putting on a guilt trip to their users.   There are many who will find ways to make money from it and best of luck to them, but lets not assume that anyone who comes along and “makes a few changes” is welcome to financial reward.  If you want something from your work, get a job working in a proprietary software house, release proprietary software.  Don’t start working on open source projects and then complain when you’re not getting the lifestyle of Bill Gates.  And back-door deals? what is that supposed to mean? advertising? shovelware? or are you playing on the paranoia of some that certain distro’s can and will be infected by government code set to spy?  Are the Elementary OS team suggesting that if you don’t pay we have a future of shady government deals with code set to intrude on your private life?  Just what are they saying from vague warning they give?

All quotes are from the Elementary OS blog:

ET is not coming and there’s nobody listening

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We humans in the main, are social animals.   Perhaps the ultimate example of this are the Alien believers who need to believe in life outside of our planet, but moreover it visiting us.

Is the desire to be “not alone” so strong that some people are susceptible to idea’s which go against logic and reason?  Are there people who seek to blame the issues of their own lives on an external force and find the “alien conspiracies” a good place to channel some of that blame?

For those who have read OpenBytes over the years,  they will know that its been a subject I’ve tackled on many occasions.

To be clear before we go any further, no, I don’t believe aliens are here, I don’t believe aliens have contacted us and no, ancient humans were not assisted by extra-terrestrials.  Crystal Skulls? Pyramids? – As technology has allowed us to examine these things properly, we find there are no mysteries in the past, just very clever and resourceful people – and that is why ladies and gentlemen, humans became the dominant species on the planet – clever, resourceful and also adaptable.

To suggest that mankind’s great engineering feats are created by an outside source, downplays the human achievements of the past.

So we look at the Alien believers.  I’ve been researching  Darryl Anka aka “Bashar” who claims to be channelling an alien intelligence,  who for a price (I presume admission to one of his talks) you can ask questions of Bashar.  Perhaps what’s more unbelievable than Bashar itself is the fact that there are people buying into this nonsense, despite his whole pitch being full of holes.

I will now look at two distinct groups of “believers”.  There’s many variations but to keep this piece shorter, the two main ones are covered.

The believers in “good” aliens

These people (like Bashar) are the ones promoting the idea that Aliens are here to help us.  They want to open our minds to peace, love and who knows what else.  Generally these Aliens won’t be making an appearance any time soon as the world “is not ready” although it seems that contacting people through the medium of Youtube or similar is ok.

The believers in “bad” aliens

Here you have the Area 51’s and all manner of fun and games.  Arguably this is the more interesting side of the Alien belivers as you get conspiracies, impending invasions from outside our solar system.  You get NASA covering up alien visitation (by shutting down the live feed on their Space Station every time one pops into view) and the sky literally is your limit for the variety of different conspiracies you can believe in.  Want an example of bad aliens? David Icke has his theories.  Which apparently are held in high regard by many who maybe forget (or chose to ignore) that a few years ago David Icke turned up on TV in a purple tracksuit claiming to be the Son of God.  Bashar or Darryl Anka wasn’t always a channeller either (from Wikipedia)

Anka started his Hollywood career as a special effects designer working on such films as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I Robot, Pirates of the Caribbean, Live Free or Die Hard and Iron Man

If we take Bashar and Icke as two examples for the moment (and there’s hundreds) we can see a similarity – they are making a living out of it.  Whilst Bashar doesn’t get the audiences David Icke does (having recently performed in Wembley Stadium) And in the case of Bashar in particular, remember that the messages he channels in his products are qoute:

© Darryl Anka – Licensed to Bashar Communications – All Rights Reserved

Before we go any further, I’d like you to put out of your mind your belief or non belief in aliens.   Lets say for argument sake you were utterly convinced and had personal proof that aliens were either trying to help mankind or trying to conquer it.  Would you charge people for this information? If you were utterly convinced would you not be shouting from the rooftops (figuratively) with no regard for what you could make out of it?  Would you be writing books and holding talks in-front of a paying audience, or would it so profoundly affect your life that you’d merely be telling everyone you could at every opportunity?  And that, whatever conspiracy you believe in, is the similarity between them all.  There’s books to buy.  There’s subscriptions to webpages (often laced with adverts).  There’s t-shirts, merchandise and talks at stadiums. In fact, there’s a whole industry catering for those who “believe” and can part with cash.

I refer to my own passion, that of free and open source software.  I have a strong belief in the advantages and benefits for open source software and I’ve written, promoted and highlighted that online for 8 years.  Not once in that time have I sought to seek recompense for that advocacy.  Why? Because I have an honest held belief in what I am saying and the idea of charging people to share that knowledge is utterly offensive to me.

Back to the wibbly wobbly world of aliens and we see that there are no such barriers.  You could probably fill a football stadium many times over with what you can buy.  There’s a whole industry involved now and that’s where the problem rests because you now have some people dependent on perpetuating a belief in something so that they can continue to remain in business.  See for yourself, every year on Youtube its the year of alien invasion.  Is this a warning or is it perpetuating a business model?

It seems that Youtube has also been elevated in status too and is seen as the panacea of truth.  If a video is up on Youtube it must be true – or certainly you’d think that judging by the outrageous alien video’s and the people supporting them.

The sad (for some) fact is, there are no aliens visiting Earth.  Either by messages on Youtube or spaceships with flashing lights.  People can claim “open mind” all day and discount basic logic, but lets be fair, it’s all a nonsense isn’t it?

Well no, not for some.  Since NASA has piped a live stream from their space station, alien hunters have been watching the feed and it seems to be generally agreed that when ET pops up in view the feed goes down.  I’d ask people who believe this nonsense to take a deep breath and just think, think.  NASA doesn’t want you to see any aliens?  NASA shuts down the feed when ET visits?  NASA knows all about these aliens?  – Then why on earth did NASA create a live feed in the first place? Why would they give themselves these problems? They could have it on time-delay if they wanted or even just plain faked.  So why would NASA give you the chance to see something they apparently don’t want you to see?

If Aliens are here already and taking over the planet (as in David Icke theories with his lizards) why would NASA even bother with a live stream at all?  You could write a book (or several) on all the flaws of these alien beliefs.  Bashar doesn’t escape here either.  According to him the crystal skulls were carved by vibrations.  It is only recently that modern technology has advanced to the point where after examination of the skulls we see that tools were in fact used to create them.  We can even determine where the quartz crystal originated from.

It’s strange that believers in Aliens claim I don’t have an open mind, when they don’t seem to consider all these logical facts?  I’d suggest that I have the open mind (I’ve not discounted Aliens existing in our universe) and I’d suggest they are gullible.

ET is not here, ET is not listening.  And who is to say that us humans are not the first species to attain sentience in this galaxy? There has to be a first race, you could reasonably suggest that it’s us, but that is a topic where its pointless talking to Bashar or listening to David Icke about.  They’ve merchandise to sell (get your Bashar merchandise here: ) Imagine trying to make a business out of us being the only advanced race in the galaxy.

For your enjoyment, here’s a small Bashar example.  Maybe the most unbelievable part of this video is that people actually believe it.  I’ll be looking at his “work” further this year.

End of the Google Glass? – Can I say I told you so?

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A big thank you to all the "trendy" people thinking they were cool with their Glasshole specs.  You helped fund Google's project.  Now, is it time to say "Told you so"?
A big thank you to all the “trendy” people thinking they were “cool” with their cutting edge Glasshole specs. You helped fund Google’s project. Now, is it time to say “Told you so”?

I voiced my concerns at the time.  I labelled the “glasshole” as someone who struts around with a silly looking Google device on their face.

It surprised me that when Prince Charles was seen with them that this didn’t act as a warning sign for the disinterest of the general public, who when faced with a $1500 price-tag, said “thanks, but no thanks”.

And Google really did try.  It tried to appeal to those people who wanted to get into shape but can’t do it without making a “game” out of exercising – maybe because their desire to get fit is paper thin and just like washing down cod-liver oil with something sweet, they need a “sweetener” to keep them going?

It’s academic, Google Glass is reported to now be on the way out.  I remember in May 2014 I voiced my concerns about the product, the dislike of its camera pointing at you and also mentioned the fan boys/girls who defended the device with cries of “Glass Hater”.  Seems I was right, because the views I aired appear to have been echoed by potential consumers (or the lack thereof).

In a post to the official Glass Google+ account on Wednesday, the Chocolate Factory said it will quit selling the current version of its spy-goggles to individuals on January 19, although it reportedly will still be available to developers and companies if they ask nicely.

Advice for the future - If a member of the Royal Family is seen with a piece of tech, it's probably destined to fail.
Advice for the future – If a member of the British Royal Family is seen with a piece of tech, it’s probably destined to fail. (Certainly as far as the mainstream consumer is concerned)

I would guess all the “trendies” who thought they were on the cusp of a technological revolution are feeling a little silly now if they forked out over a thousand dollars for them.  Maybe they will learn a valuable lesson and next time listen when tech folk tell them its nothing more than an expensive and short lived fad.  Or maybe they won’t, Google seems to be very pleased though:

“Glass was in its infancy, and you took those very first steps and taught us how to walk,” the Glass team wrote. “Well, we still have some work to do, but now we’re ready to put on our big kid shoes and learn how to run.”

And so we can end on this:

……not clear whether future versions of Glass will be marketed as consumer products, or if Google plans to steer them toward business applications. While the specs aren’t well-received at parties, they have won some converts in certain industries, such as healthcare.

All quote sources:

Maybe in a few years time the “buy it now trendies” can put their Google Glasses on eBay.  Here’s some more advice (and hopefully this time they’ll listen) start the bidding at $1 with no reserve – you might be able to shift them.

OpenBytes book of 2014

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images2014 has seen some great releases.  It’s impossible to read every great work and the fact that I only managed to read 25 titles in 2014 means that I’ve not even come close to scratching the surface.

For those who have not seen the book of the year award on OpenBytes, I’ll make a few things clear.  The books that are considered for the award are the ones I selected to read during the course of the year.  They are not necessarily new releases.

Laurel A Rockefeller’s works had to be removed from consideration.  This is due to a friendship myself and my family have formed with this talented author and I feel that any award article (and her works certainly rank in the shortlist) would not be looked at as impartial.  With that in mind though, please do check her work out.  Her attention to detail, her passion for her subjects and her engaging writing style are all reasons why you should make 2015 the year you experience her work.

The 22 books up for consideration are as follows:

The Unremembered Empire – Abnett, Dan

Eternal Knight – Heppe, Matt

Gods of Mars – McNeill, Graham

Vulkan Lives – Kyme, Nick

The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Rothfuss, Patrick

Mark of Calth – Goulding, Laurie

Lords of Mars – McNeill, Graham

Priests of Mars – McNeill, Graham

Moth – Arenson, Daniel

The Wise Man’s Fear – Rothfuss, Patrick

The Name of the Wind – Rothfuss, Patrick

Wand of the Witch – Arenson, Daniel

Coffin Dodgers – Marshall, Gary

Eye of the Wizard – Arenson, Daniel

Omnilingual – Piper, H. Beam

The Forge of Mars – Balfour, Bruce

At the Gates of Darkness – Feist, Raymond E.

The Voyage of the Space Beagle – Vogt, A.E. van

Ship of Fools – Russo, Richard Paul

Dark Matter – Ahmed, S.W.

Naughty – Chester, Mark

Betrayer – Aaron Dembski-Bowden


So what title failed to impress last year?  I think top of the list has to be “The Slow Regard of Silent Things” and at the time as I wrote in a review, this easily rates as the weakest title I read in 2014.

There were some great discoveries over 2014 – Wand of the Witch is a quirky, fun and entertaining fantasy piece which I thoroughly enjoyed.  This led me onto other titles from Daniel Arenson, (Moth) which again impressed.

The Magician series still poses a struggle.  I’m trying to finish the series but for me, there is no better example of a series stretched well beyond its “sell by” date.

The Horus Heresy series still continues too.  It’s around 30 titles and with no end of the series in sight, it’s getting a little silly.  I can’t see 2015 having many Warhammer 40,000 titles in my reading list.  If it keeps going the way it is, it will be the year 40,000 before the series completes.

So who gets the award?

It’s ironic that the author who produced (for me) the weakest title of 2014 (Patrick Rothfuss) also produced the one that wins the title.  “The Name of the Wind”  with its mix of 1st/3rd person, it’s attention to detail and it’s ability to create characters which the reader can really care about has it as a worthy winner.  It was a slim win though, as I was very close to giving the award to Daniel Arenson’s “Wand of the Witch”.

What’s wrong with ChromeOS/book & a general musing on silly people

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Contractual obligations have me drawn away from OpenBytes, its a shame because my time doesn’t even seem to have the opportunity for many 140 character one liners on Twitter.  G+ seems to me like the social media that everyone knows about and didn’t want.  Its funny because I’ve noticed that it seems to get more activity when linking articles on other social media rather than conversations created by a musing on G+ itself.  Maybe G+ has the charm of being an outlet for people who want to comment on an article and feel more comfortable doing it on their own ground (as in their own G+ page)

FB? Well FB, I’ll come on to that. In the meantime, I rack up the miles in travel (and its getting rather silly now) as I am in a constant state of flux between numerous locations.  At the end of this year I’ll add up my mileage, place it onto a map of our Solar System and see just how far I’ve travelled from Earth!

This post is more of a collection of issues which if time permits will be written about further in the future, but in the meantime be a critique of things that are wrong in the tech world.

Facebook and its privacy issues.  I’ve yet to see why any allegedly privacy issues with Facebook is a problem.  People use social media to post things socially, public posts which would be very similar to conversations that they have in the bar or restaurant.  People on the whole want their posts to be seen by many and for some Facebook friends are seen as a “score” as to how successful they are in real life.  So keeping that in mind; If their posts can be read by anyone, what’s the issue with that information falling into the hands of any government agency?  It’s posted publicly after all.  If people are so concerned with privacy, why are they not getting rid of their debit/credit cards dealing in cash only and not having a passport?  Oh yes and not driving a car, not using a mobile phone – the list goes on and all these things can be used by a government agency to keep tabs on you (if in fact they even care)

Facebook has directed ads, it does try bless it, to throw adverts at you that are relevant.  It should do, presumably a purchase or subscription as a result of clicking on a Facebook app will get them more revenue (or at least encourage the advertiser to continue paying for the service) and with a concerted effort spanning a couple of days and much clicking, I think I can say whilst I still get the unwanted adverts at least they have a small bearing on what I am interested in.

Then we look to G+ and all its connections.  In case you didn’t know, I’m a big fan of shoes, cosmetics and an internet program called “Lucky Penny Shop”.  I’ve also been looking at handbags, a few wildlife programs and I’ve a love of a certain brand of perfume (apparently).  Why?  Because with all the connections on my services, should my wife or son use the PC, their personal likes et al get sent to my social media as proud announcements and stored away for future advertising no doubt and an evil government agenda (if that’s your thing).  Not a problem, but perhaps if certain peoples paranoia about how a lack of privacy and large corporations being involved with the government is correct, I’m going to be one complex character for a security service to profile.  I’m a shoe, perfume and handbag loving viewer of the “Lucky Penny Shop” who uses a Chromebook, paints Warhammer miniatures, looks for recipes about cakes, likes football and is an author.

And I use the word author with confidence now, bringing me onto my next subject.  Written a book? Self-published or traditionally published? what do you do?  I chose (mistakenly now I think) to take the “official route” to authordom.  Real authors have agents and publishers don’t they? Real authors have a team backing them up with PR releases and people to act as your PA?  Well the publishing houses may want you to think that, but times have changed.  My biggest regret was putting my work into the hands of others because in doing so, my work became their property, their concern and as a consequence the fun, the individuality of writing a works was diminished slightly.  After an initial date of around March 2014 for the release of my title, delays and a few IP issues have seen the date fall back.  Launching a book can apparently, be like launching a space shuttle, the optimum release date needs to be adhered to and this has a number of factors affecting it.  Just like how a planet needs to be in the right place before launch, certain factors need to be considered when releasing a product, is it a time when people buy books? are there similar title’s in the early days of its release? does the subject matter press any buttons with current affairs (and this can be both a positive and negative).  You don’t simply release a book when you go through the publisher route.

Then I have my other contractual obligations and I’ve been brought in on a documentary which has seen me step out of my comfort zone and into a world of camera’s, scripts and some very lively situations.  There will be more on that later.

Now moving onto the Chromebook;  A while back I wrote an article having to correct certain people as to what the Chromebook is.  At that time (unlike them) I had actually been using one a while (HP Chromebook 14″) and when I say using I mean using exclusively.  I’ve had a very large move recently and I’ve continued my work using the Chromebook because lugging around a desktop PC was not an option.  I am writing this on a Chromebook, I have used nothing but a Chromebook for getting onto a year, so I think I am more than qualified now to highlight what’s wrong with the device and its potential implementations elsewhere.

Lets start off by clarifying something.  The Chromebook is just a PC with certain items (that I don’t need) removed.  Maybe the – what’s wrong with the Chromebook? should be more – whats wrong with ChromeOS?, but the two are intrinsically linked.  HP’s device as in the 14″ laptop sized machine I’m using at the moment is very good.  For the price it offers very good value for money and whilst it’s display isn’t the best I’ve seen, the keyboard feels a little cheap and the trackpad is awful (are they not all?) it doesn’t hamper my productivity; and for the price, it’s unreasonable to expect the Hennessey Venom GT of the PC world for less than $250.

So where to start? Here is a list of the issues relating to ChromeOS specifically, they have been covered before and maybe that’s the point here, these issues should have been addressed long ago as I consider them to be pretty simple minimum standards.

No facility to turn off the track-pad with a one click feature – You can turn off your track-pad by dropping into the command line and then repeating the process every-time you boot, but if I said now to even a seasoned PC user to do that on a Chromebook, they would (I assume) have to look up the command and how to get there.  A simple one click feature is all that’s needed.

Multiple windows cannot be opened.  Remember those all GUI’s for MS-DOS from the 80’s, where after opening a simple graphical representation of a directory you had to skip through pages to your destination folder and use a combination of keys and/or mouse click)  Well those happy days are here again.  There’s no multiple windows for you, so CTRL C, V and/or your right mouse button are what’s needed for you!

The “app store” – or more accurately for most packages, the URL store (most applications are simply online webpages) is a mess.  There is no other way to describe it.  Lets forget about the malicious software for a second and go straight down to the really bad stuff.  You see an app, lets say a game, you install it, it’s icon is there on your desktop.  Lovely.  You then click that icon and you are taken to a webpage.  Thats OK, we understand that most apps are nothing more than web-based.  Then you get a message telling you to download an .exe file.  A .exe file? Right.  Congratulations, you’ve just installed a worthless icon with a link to a Windows binary on your Chromebook.  Just what is this stuff doing on the store?  If Google can’t check up and remove all the stuff like this, then that’s a compelling reason to lock down the app store in a similar manner to Apple.  There’s pages of this stuff.   When you add into the mix the malicious stuff too (and there are still many users falling for the scams) the app store becomes a minefield of broken links and Windows binaries.

There are some people out there who will promote the Chromebook as a great device to install another OS onto.  So lets look at that in more depth.  You can, but there are better alternatives than the Chromebook if all you intend to do is buy one to try and put Linux on.

The specifications of Chromebooks, their features et al, are designed to run web-based apps and a few locally installed applications.  Once you start delving into the realms of other operating systems, forgetting the local storage issue (which you will need to add to I’d suggest) we’ve the problem with the processor itself.  The processor and the RAM and on-board graphics card used in these things was intended for web-based apps.  Not World of Warcraft through Wine, nor the rendering of a new Avatar movie or having an enormous spreadsheet open with the galactic sales figures for a hyperdrive.   Here’s an example.  The Chromebook is not intended as a multi-media system for all your home entertainment needs, so when for example you are streaming or running an HD 1048 movie and doing one or two other things, the system quickly starts grinding to a halt.  On the other Chromebooks I’ve seen too, the hardware will struggle if you do anything a little unexpected.  The Chromebook is an online device so when say presented with a folder of 500 high resolution images that it needs to create thumbnails for, its probably going to struggle a little.  Get yourself a traditional laptop or desktop and run Linux on it, it won’t.

When you start stepping outside of that which the Chromebook was intended for, the CPU starts to really work hard, the little fan inside the Chromebook buzzing so fast, that it’s not far from my Chromebook lifting off the desk and becoming one of those hover-boards from Back to the Future 2, that’s if I try to use it as a fully fledged machine.  Stick another OS on if you wish, just remember the hardware you have bought was not intended for you to do that.   I’d suggest the footprint and CPU demands for ChromeOS are just as small as you can get, the hardware provided takes that into account.  Add some more storage space to the Chromebook and get it running other software and for me that’s a relationship doomed to failure.  Want a Linux laptop? Great and I still fully advocate the use and benefit of a Linux desktop, but buy yourself some other hardware to do it on.

I could make further lists that say the ChromeOS device won’t support an external DVD or Blu-Ray (but then that should be obvious) and I did not buy a Chromebook for that, in fact I actually bought the Chromebook because I didn’t want those devices as part of my laptop.

Finally there are many reports about Chromebooks in schools.  Do I think this is a good idea over the traditional desktop? No.  Here’s why.

Anyone who has seen a PC after its been used by a few individuals will know that regardless of the ages of the user, the machine comes in for some heavy wear.  If the idea of a web-based machine suits an educational institution, great and that can be achieved (I’d suggest) with hardware they already have.  There are plenty of Webcentric Linux distributions out there (I’ve covered many in the past)

Lets consider what would get the most wear in this environment. Would it be fair to say the keyboard?  Having a Chromebook for this reason flashes warning signals at me, because the Chromebooks cheaper price and intent to be something without the frills and excess of a more expensive machine means that the keyboard whilst fine, I’d suggest would not last long under heavy use.  And what keyboard would? Even the most sturdy of keyboards is in for a rough time as the carefree hands of many different users type an essay on them.  Here’s where your traditional desktop is far better suited.  If a Chromebooks keys start popping off, you’ve the entire device to send in for repair.  At least with a traditional desktop (no matter what OS it’s running) you can merely replace the keyboard without any loss of the device itself.  I consider my HP very well made.  I would not though give it longer than about 2 weeks in the hands of numerous people who will not look after it as they would their own property.

Chromebooks running ChromeOS have the benefit that everything is so well integrated, my local storage and Googledrive seamlessly interact with each other, as they do with my apps too (either the local or the web-based ones) but for the purposes of Schooling I’d suggest a browser, any browser would give them similar functionality as machines which are used by numerous members of the public don’t usually support local based storage.

I had the time the other day to drop into a social network (of sorts) for a few minutes which I’ve not looked at for many months.  What was maybe more shocking than seeing the same users having the same arguments was that whilst the rest of the computing world moves on, there are some who are not so much stuck in the past as merely out of touch.  These people seem under the delusion that somehow are “elite” or “in the know”, when actually there are only about 30 regulars, not one of them questioning why the elite of the tech world have no interest in their outdated modes of communication (and I use the word communication very loosely)  I would make light of their delusions, however a quick look at some of the posts suggests there’s more than a few of them who need some sort of professional help – and I mean that seriously.  Grown adults spending years engaged in childish banter arguing about any topic which happen to be raised by one of their “enemies”? This is not normal behaviour.

There’s big changes in computing, brought about I’d suggest by them being accessible to everyone.  Gone are the days where you type ATD (enter telephone number here) and wait for the connection to your BBS.  Gone are the days when traditional methods of social media are seen as desirable, its all about Youtube, animated gif’s and high resolution images.  Is this a good thing? Well ask the people clinging on to technologies of yesterday and they will say no.  In a few years time Youtube etc will probably be replaced with something else and those who still cling to Youtube will be looked at in the same way.  It’s exciting when you think back to the days of the BBS in the 80’s.  Did we really imagine anything like that which we have today?  I certainly didn’t, I was impressed when Micronet displayed a page of text in about 20 seconds.

But I digress, the same tired arguments (just under new topics) by the same people with a plethora of claims about their individual successes in life.   I don’t know how many (if any at all) are true, but I can’t see how a successful working person can have time to spend like they do and if they are retired (like some claim) I can only hope than when my retirement day comes, I will not have so little in life that spending time in a social media of yesterday and typing the same things is seen as fun.  That’s a depressing thought.

After a month, that completes my musing, maybe next post will be something more substantial.  I see the PirateBay is down again which goes to show, if, after all this time the government can’t even bring down that properly, how can anyone have concerns over privacy? The governments of the world are so incompetent, it really matters not.

Rosetta – The pointless achievement?

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I sit here amidst a foray of over excited scientists talking too quickly down a mic on a live stream and this musing comes on the back of having to suffer 2 and a half hours of the awful film Interstellar the other day.  To say I’m not “pro-space” at the moment is an understatement.

At time of writing the Rosetta probe has landed and I expect we will see images and further information soon.

But so what? What benefit will it bring to humanity? – This is where I start to lose interest in the probe after the initial feelings of “it was a hell of a good shot to be able to hit the comet”.

Lets say investigations of the probe conclude that its made entirely of custard.  How will this forward any knowledge? All we will know from then on is that if you have an apple pie ready when a comet slams into the Earth, you’re in for a great dessert.

Of course I jest with the custard example, but it’s merely to highlight that the “wonderful” readings we are bound to receive are really rather useless.  When you consider what it must of cost to get the probe there AND the fact that we haven’t even taken mankind past the Moon, what benefit does this have?

I suppose in many hundreds of years when mankind develops an interest in Comet surfing, the tech will be very useful, people can land on a comet and do whatever you do on a lump of ice travelling at 24 miles per second around our solar system.  I’d suggest for now, the tech is at least, pretty useless.

There can be one lesson drawn from this exercise, Scientists should not be allowed near a mic when making public announcements.  Over-excitement, lack of sleep and lack of public speaking experience make for uncomfortable viewing.

The icing on the cake will come from the conspiracy theorist, for whom this will not be a waste of money.  The Icke supporters and Alien folk will all be able to offer their “unique” theories as to what is being covered up.  You will get folk spending hours looking at the images and then pointing out one that has proof of alien civilisation.  You’ll have others claiming the pictures are fake, or photoshopped.

For others – those who have romantic notions of a Star Trek future (that will never happen) and the conspiracy theorists looking for evidence of aliens, this Rosetta project will offer days of entertainment.  I would expect there are quite a few people that will also think before we start chucking millions of pounds at large lumps of rock and ice, we look to the Earth first and try to solve some of the problems we have here.

Lets be realistic, evidence of mankind’s current behaviour lends more to suggest that our future is more likely to be Warhammer 40,000 than it is Star Trek and maybe that’s because rather than deal with problems that we have on Earth people would rather send millions of pounds up into space to look at rocks and ice.