A multifaceted musing – Looking to the summer

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If I look back a year or so I see my life was so different than that of today.  Time stands still for no-one they say; and unless you believe there are enlightened aliens orbiting Earth seeking to lead humanity on a great journey of discovery (for just the cost of merchandise) then you will agree with that statement. – For those wondering, its a series of articles I’m currently working on.

Freaky Shack have indulged a couple of projects and work has me travelling so many miles that even the Starship Enterprise would require a service and oil change.

My novel (or series) is still on track, in the meantime I’ve become involved in two documentaries, one being a football “behind the scenes” and the other being part of a larger project seeking to throw a light on the industry of mystics & channellers.

Its the end of the football season, which means those of us behind the scenes running the show from the “command tent” have a different focus for the next twelve weeks – ensuring the ground and facilities are prepared for the new season and promotion!  Here’s a video montage of the season, its gives you an idea of the fun we’ve had whilst playing at football club management and coordination!

So now I’m back on to writing.  The UK is busy with its election and as per normal the US is running presidential campaigns about 10,000 years before people can actually vote.  Over the last year or so I’ve been seeing how many different terms and interpretations exist between the US and UK.  My dear friend and author Laurel Rockefeller over in Johnstown, PE who has been adopted into my family, is my first port of call for intelligent conversation and fascinating company.   I strongly suggest you check out her work.  Auntie Laurel is a name to watch for in the future!

So who will I vote for (providing I am able to) in the UK election?  Simple. Respect Party.  Lets hope that parasites like UKIP are not given any sort of voice in the UK.

I’ve a weekend of excess coming up where I travel to Wembley to see the FA Vase final – at I hasten to add a substantially reduced fare.  Here’s hoping Ebac Northern League team North Shields get the win – talking of which, on my travels I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Amos (Northern League Chairman), what a nice man and a fantastic chairman for the league.

Over the last season I’ve also met Stephan Peddie (wrestler, standup comedian and actor on the TV Show Hebburn) and whilst he did poke fun at me during his stage act (I think he called me Ricky Gervaise’s brother or something like that) a great gentleman, who proves there is such a thing called a small world as he was a wrestler on the indi-promotion scene in the States, of which, when time permits I’m a big fan of.

I think its a given when I say that OpenBytes is rather more than merely a coverage of technology.  I still hold  the original ethos; which for those around here 8 years ago will recall “to expose FUD and the under-handed tactics of corporations”

So its on to the summer and more work.

ChromeOS 42.0.2311.87 (Official Build) (64-bit) – A brief look

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ChromeOS is a crafty devil.  If you are not paying attention you can miss the fact that you’ve received an update.  Its a little like a dog near to a buffet table, turn away and it will have a cake off there and carry on as normal without you being any the wiser.

I decided to pen a few thoughts on the latest build which has found its way through the interwebs and landed on my HP 14″.  When I say land, the image I’d like to convey is not so much a smooth journey opening up a wealth of treats but more of a thump and an exercise in wasting my time.

These are the things I’ve noticed within the first few hours of the update.  There will be more.

The first observation I’ll make is that it was good fortune I was expecting an update, otherwise I may have thought my Chromebook was suffering with a setting being tampered with (not likely there are not many settings in the first place) or more likely that the Chromebook had finally managed to get its own brand of malware, because the new start menu is well……silly.

For those familiar with the start menu on ChromeOS, you will know that you click it to show your applications, any apps which cannot fit on the default page are accessed via tabs.  Well that all still exists, however the people of Google have decided that a feature every user has been demanding is to add another step in the process of getting access to their application.  What happens now is that you click your start button and if the app that you are after is not on your recently used list, then you must click on “more apps” before you get to something resembling the one click process you were used to before.

I notice that the default media player has been fixed, as there was a bug whereby if you minimised the player whilst listening to a music track, restoring it would reset the track to the beginning.

There is still no option to turn off the trackpad, so unless you position your hands like the paws of a meerkat when its standing on its hind legs, if you are like me, you’ll strike it every so often, usually sending your cursor to another part of the text you are working on and producing a paragraph of nonsense.  Or more nonsense than you would of had the cursor remained where you wanted it.

The file manager is now updated with it finally resembling something reasonable.  No movie file thumbnail previews though despite that the Chromebook is quite able to play them and there’s now a Windowsy theme to proceedings.  Not really a problem, unlike Google I don’t put much value in the colour of a window, all I want is the software to work properly.

But the icing on the cake is when curiosity gets the better of you and you wander over to the Official Chrome releases site to see what other “treats” they have in store for you and you see –

Updated calculator app.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for the oh so essential calculator update for many months now.  I’ve been perched on my seat, put my business on hold, just to be on the cutting edge of technology when the calculator gets updated.

Back in reality, I can’t see what they’ve updated, unless they mean the orange circle that now appears around the numbers you click on the virtual calculator.

Say what you will about Google, there may have been past privacy allegations, they may be investigated over their search engine, but the one thing you can say with certainty, they know how to keep you up to date with the latest calculator technology.

Richard Dawkins – A strange tale of Twitter

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Normally I'd have a photo of the person I'm discussing.  Unfortunately just seeing Dawkin's name is bringing figurative bile to the back of my throat.  For this reason I can't stomach a picture.
Normally I’d have a photo of the person I’m discussing. Unfortunately just seeing Dawkin’s name is bringing figurative bile to the back of my throat. For this reason I can’t stomach a picture.

I’ve very little time or interest for Richard Dawkins.  Whilst I don’t have a faith myself, I have a great respect for those that do and will support peoples right to have a faith completely.

Dawkins, for a man that claims not to have a faith, seems to have built himself quite a career on God (or his claimed absence of)

Normally I’d not give Dawkins time on my blog, he fits into a category of non-entity in my world and the reason is because unlike intelligent reasonable people who don’t have a faith, Dawkins seems to have a great skill in upsetting people and an inability to present his views without causing offence.  It’s silly, its childish and its not clever.

Anyone can upset people on social media if they so desire; the decent, intelligent people are the ones able to stimulate a debate that doesn’t alienate or offend anyone.

Freedom of speech! I hear you cry.  And yes there is freedom of speech, but in that comes responsibility.  Do you walk down the street not caring who you offend? Or is it that some people start to feel brave when they are behind a computer screen and think that upsetting people is ok?  Well it’s not ok.  Just like you or I wouldn’t run through a churchyard having a loud argument about sport whilst a funeral was in progress, we have boundaries.  Boundaries which apparently don’t apply to some cowards online.

Dawkins views could easily be presented without the offence and before you say this is a form of censorship, I think the reverse.  I think a respectful presentation of the same views would mean it would create a more inclusive debate, rather than people being offended and turning off.

I digress, I’ve allowed Dawkins an article on my site because of a rather strange #tag appearing on Twitter.  The tag was believed to have started on Thursday evening, with a #RIPricharddawkins and seems to be announcing his passing away. The purpose of this is unknown.

Richard Dawkins, the prominent atheist, misogynist and biologist, is not dead. But Weird Twitter, a dark, secret, absurd pocket of the Internet is having a great time saying he is. Mediaite’s Tina Nguyen speculates that the hashtag began around midnight last night with this bizarre tweet….

Source: Salon.com

So why are people doing this?  Is Dawkins being ridiculed by a growing number of people on social media? It will be interesting to see if we get an answer.

From his Twitter profile:

Treats all religions with good-humoured ridicule.

Which in my view is incorrect. I certainly don’t find it good humoured or funny and I don’t even have a faith. His followers lap it up though and Dawkins does love to RT.  If you worship hard enough to the “almighty” Dawkins he might re-tweet you.  Step up and offer your praise to him.  The crawling around him his followers engage in, is nearly as sickening as the way he approaches his topics.

Its people like Dawkins who have me staying away from the title of “atheist” lest I be associated with his type of “intellectual” debate (and I use those words loosely)

Ironically Dawkin’s should be praising God.  He’s made a name for himself on the back of religion.

Google Street Maps – The unexplained files.

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I’ve a rather sad hobby.  I travel the Google street maps looking for strange and unexplainable events happening.

I’ve now decided (after today’s discovery) to start publishing these.  All images come from Google Maps and you can search them yourself should you wish to conduct your own investigations.

Exhibit A - Samurai Guy and Santa with a shovel, on the streets of LA.
Exhibit A – Samurai Guy and Santa with a shovel, on the streets of LA.

So here we have a chap dressed like a Samurai, complete with sword and stance, accompanied by a convey of trailers loaded with junk and a guy with a Santa hat, holding a shovel.

Lets look at it from a different angle:

Exhibit B.  Here you can see Santa and his shovel better.
Exhibit B. Here you can see Santa and his shovel better.

Here we see Santa’s shovel a little better, he seems friends with Samurai Guy, who’s attention appears to be directed towards a repair shop across the road.  Its presumed Samurai and Santa came from the open vehicle in this shot, but the question remains:

Why does Santa, a shovel and Samurai guy have business in this street.  What sort of vehicle is pulling that convoy of junk? I put this out to the interwebs to maybe get an answer to all this.

Screenshot 2015-03-12 at 21.18.41

Musing of the day – The simple step to being a successful writer.

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There’s plenty of places online where articles can be found on “How to become a successful writer”, they are often long winded, occasionally contradictory and sometimes just plain wrong.  What entitles a writer to claim they have the answer to being a successful one? Who knows, but here is the best piece of advice you’ll get.

Don’t listen to other writers telling you how to become successful.


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: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19835808 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: http://blog.elementaryos.org/post/110645528530/payments