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Taking a Breather

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I seem to say this every time I sit down to compose a blog entry, but I’ll say it again in hopes that it sticks: I should really try to make it a more regular habit to sit and write for a few minutes. There. I said it. Again.

Truthfully it is something I would like to do. I’m a fairly avid reader and enjoy well-written articles, books, journals and even technical documents. Writing isn’t something I feel like I’ve been terribly good at when I’ve tried. I have heard others say (and write) that in many cases it is the institutional school system that put the distaste for reading, writing and arithmetic into some people and I can certainly sympathize with that. I overcame dislike for reading after school upon reading some good yarns. I grapple with some math and have come to appreciate spreadsheets. My duel with writing continues.

But I found myself taking a breather today from things I’ve been working on and things I’ve been going through when it occurred to me that I could look at and update my blog if I really wanted to. A part of what lends to my resistance to this kind of personal writing, particularly in our world today, is privacy. Another part is coming to pre-drawn conclusions that nobody could possibly care unless something I had to say was especially unique or interesting. Perhaps that’s just a misconception of our increasingly fast-paced world. Which naturally reminds me of a movie quote, from Contact in this case.

What I’m asking is… are we happier, as a human race? Is the world fundamentally a better place because of science and technology? We shop at home, we surf the Web, and at the same time we feel emptier, lonelier, and more cut off from each other than at any other time in human history…        – Palmer Joss

Anyway, I have been busy with various things since my last post. Some of which I’m not ready to publicly discuss at this time. The other part is really just trying to get some serious focus on changing gears in my career. So for the past several months I’ve been neck deep in Linux materials; books, articles, tutorials. I have been using Linux for quite a number of years, back before package management when installing a simple program was a major pain in cerebrum. The learning curve wasn’t as steep for me as some since I had an early job at AT&T where they taught me to use UNIX and vi. It came in handy. I dumped Windows completely back around 2009 or so. But I’ve primarily used it as a single-user desktop system, perhaps like most folks who use Linux just for web browsing or desktop publishing and such.

Several months ago, I got in into my head that I was going to step up and get into the nitty gritty of Linux and learn to be a system administrator. It hasn’t been entirely easy either, as there is quite a lot to an entire Operating System – much of which most of us never use. So where at one time, I felt like I knew quite a bit about Linux – because you can’t use Linux for a bunch of years without picking up a few things – now I’m learning how much I don’t know. And worse still, there is decided a test at the end – in fact, a few tests – if I want to earn a certification (which I do) to try to help the job transition along. There is still a goodly bit a road ahead.

Much like deciding to sit down and blog a little bit today, I suppose anything could happen down the road. Hopefully that includes more semi-regular blogging. For the time being, however, I should get back to the books for a bit before bedtime.


Ubuntu Phone Follow-up

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I wrote a review a short while back after deciding to trial the Ubuntu Touch OS and wanted to write a follow-up after having used it for a month. I need to start by reiterating that my trial of the Ubuntu phone has been on a secondhand LG Nexus 4 phone that has seen better days and although I had service turned up by my mobile provider, the phone only seems to be capable of 3G service.

Despite such limitations, however, the OS is remarkably responsive. I’ve had few critical issues and all of those critical issues are likely due to the old hardware. But it is a testament to the lean nature of Linux OSs that despite the older hardware, the OS remains responsive and fast.

There are, naturally, some shortcomings to Ubuntu Touch and I mentioned a couple in my previous review, such as the lack of a data usage graph as found on the other big mobile OSs. There are other features and settings improvements that I’m sure can and will be made as the Ubuntu mobile OS matures. Having used the OS for about some time now another simple fix has become apparent to me.

Ubuntu has made much of their scopes, aggregated data views, that can be either specific and branded (ie. YouTube scope, Weather Channel scope) or of a more general nature, like the Today scope which may aggregate views of Weather Channel and Calendar items and the like into one scope. I’ve even created a couple of scopes at this point, essentially RSS/news scopes using a scope creator toolkit. The font on these scopes, unfortunately, is rather small and my eyesight isn’t what it used to be and there are no options in the overall settings, or any scope-specific setting where I can increase the font size. This is a basic accessibility option that the folks at Ubuntu should be able to implement with relative ease.

As a minor note, which I also suggested in my previous review, a nice touch would be to have the lock screen notification center automatically toggle through the various notification types without double-tapping – perhaps as various setting options in the settings menu somewhere – delay time, which notification types, etc. Otherwise, I’m more than pleased with the core operation of the OS even as-is, and suspect it will only get better with further development and when used on newer/better hardware than this old Nexus.

Much has also been made of the limited native apps (currently) available for Ubuntu. Comparisons are often made to the lackluster sales of Microsoft phones for similar reasons. I have (so far) only used Android for a smartphone and during some of my early usage I did use some web apps due to limited space issues on my early Android phones. Usage of such apps – native or web – become largely subjective and really speak more to user preferences, but here are some of my thoughts after extended usage side-by-side on my Android phone and the web apps on the Ubuntu phone.

When I first got an Android phone, it became necessary to get a Gmail account in order to use the various Google services necessary for Android. I’m not a fan of any of the monolithic companies and had avoided Google as much as possible prior to that. I still had an old Yahoo! account and in those early Android times I used the Yahoo! Mail app more than the Gmail app. Then early 2014 (or late 2013) the Yahoo! Mail began to suffer. Various updates they were trying to employ just ruined the app to me (and it suffered performance issues as well). It became easier to use the web portal via Chrome or Firefox, but somewhat inconvenient to keep bookmarks on mobile, but the performance of Yahoo! Mail was better that way. I actually created the current Yahoo! Mail web app that can be found in the Ubuntu Phone App Store. It isn’t a sophisticated app – it currently can’t activate the notification center upon receiving emails (something I’m still reading up on if/how to do) but it works perfectly for simply accessing my Yahoo! Mail – better than the native app (last time I used it).

Twitter is an different matter. There are some features of the native app in Android that I came to like or take for granted. Displaying photos automatically for one thing, not that that was always desirable anyway. I really only started using Twitter as a replacement for RSS reader apps. With the Ubuntu phone, using the Twitter web app, I’ve begun to re-warm to it – as I said, I had used it on a prior, older Android phone. In some ways I’ve begun to like it more than the native app on Android and the smooth, responsive feel of the Ubuntu phone has made it really enjoyable to use. I can say much the same thing for the WordPress web app as well.

Some apps, like games and things like Waze will simply need to wait until a native version is written for Ubuntu. As much as I’ve come to like Waze, I feel sure I could adapt to something else, Google Maps if necessary, or some sort of Open Maps app. A fine implementation of the Telegram app is already available for Ubuntu phone and I continue to have hope that others (like a native email app for POP and MS Exchange server email) will come along in time. As a long-time LInux and Ubuntu user at home, I’ve learned to find and adapt to many alternate applications, so again, that sort of thing is user-dependent. I’ve long enjoyed Libre Office and prefer it over MS Office – with the exception of the VBA programming language for Excel, which I miss with Libre Office.

As with many things, there are tradeoffs and one is free to prefer one thing over another. More and more I like the idea of web apps for some things that I thought were better with native apps. Web apps require less space on the phone storage and use less system resources, allowing those resources to be better used elsewhere or for other apps. I certainly like the potential for stronger privacy and security by moving away from companies like Google (and Apple for those of the iPhone persuasion – though for me, iPhone has always been financially out of my range.) And as an advocate of individualism and freedom, to each their own.

For me, I have to conclude that, the more I use the Ubuntu Phone, the more I like it. I look forward to being able to use it on better hardware designed and optimized for Ubuntu in the not-too-distant future.

NATO & IMF Just Suffered a Disastrous Military Defeat

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Banksters and fascists will ruin us all given the time… Good read!

Test Driving Ubuntu Phone on a Nexus 4

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The recent hype surrounding the release of a proper OEM Ubuntu phone in Europe was the impetus for me to acquire an old, used Nexus 4 to install the Ubuntu mobile OS on and try it out for myself.

There are some things that should be stated up front if I’m going to review the Ubuntu phone. Primarily, as stated above, this is not an official OEM Ubuntu phone. The old Nexus 4 I picked up has seen better days, no doubt, but the hardware is sturdy and has served its purpose well. It is likely that newer hardware can do nothing but improve the performance and capabilities of the Ubuntu mobile OS.

I will also confess some initial bias up front – I am a user and fan of Ubuntu. I’ve used it since 2007 (7.04) and made it my primary desktop OS in 2010, so I have some interest in seeing it succeed in the mobile market. But only if it is good and worthwhile to me. I was a late-comer to smartphones in general, largely for reasons of cost, but I’ve become a regular user for the past 4 years – strictly on Android, though I have friends with iPhones. Although many of us use our phones for similar things, there is also a lot of variance in how people use their phones – apart from actually using it as a phone, of course.

For myself, I primarily use it check email and texting (in my opinion, two of the most useful things since the Internet Age began) as well as using Twitter and WordPress, and recently Waze. To a lesser extent I also use Meetup and Firefox. I’m not as big a mobile gamer as some with the exception of poker – and the PokerStars mobile app is as fine an UI for poker as I can imagine. (I’ll rant in another post about the state of online money poker in the US.) Perhaps the unsung app I use most on my Android is actually the Unity Launcher from Ubuntu. I just find it easier to oft-used apps than scrolling through the app windows.


When Unity was first introduced into Ubuntu it caused a bit of stir amongst some Ubuntu users, but I never had a problem with. I did, and continue to, like Ubuntu’s approach and willingness to try something different.

So I purchased the old Nexus 4 and flashed Ubuntu to it. After some getting used to – as the interface is somewhat different from Desktop Ubuntu and certainly from Android – I generally do like it. But let me get into my likes and what I think are the pluses after a few items that I think could (and hopefully) will be improved. We’ll call these suggestions for the Ubuntu team.

Although I don’t necessarily expect all of the features that we saw in the Ubuntu Touch YouTube video promos a couple of years ago to be perfect yet, there are some things that can be improved and at least one thing noticeably missing.

One key thing that I feel is missing and may play a key part in long-term acceptance of Ubuntu for phones is a native email client. There is a current project by Daniel Chapman called Dekko which is promising, though I haven’t been able to get it to work with my ISP email yet. One of the reasons I was even able to start using a smartphone was that, by having work email tied to my phone, the company compensates me for part of the monthly bill. So a native email client on the phone that allows me to connect to the office is practically essential if I were to transition to an Ubuntu phone as a primary phone. Like I said, email is maybe one of the most important things to come out of the internet.

That’s really it for fundamental deal breakers. These next items are more nice-to-have suggestions.

The Calendar app provided by the Ubuntu Core Team could use one tweak that I’ve found useful in PC and Android calendar functions; the ability to choose a bi-weekly reminder or calendar item. I know most things are weekly, daily, yearly, etc., but some items, like my paycheck for example, are bi-weekly. Another thing missing in the core functionality is a data usage graph, like the sort I’ve seen in the two makers of Android phones I’ve had experience with. If your phone plan has a limit on data usage, the ability to track it is key.

I’ve already mentioned that having PokerStars or a poker app would be nice, even more nice, and higher on my priority list, would be to have a mobile implementation of KeePass (a password generator/management package) and SpiderOak (a dropbox-like web store application) both already available easily for Ubuntu desktop. Nice to have additions after that would be things like Plex, Skype, Waze, Hulu, etc. But the lack of them currently aren’t necessarily deal breakers to adopting Ubuntu as a primary phone OS.

One item I remember from the promo videos that seems to be lacking – at least in my Nexus 4 build of Ubuntu OS, to whatever extent that may differ from the production build people in Europe with their bq phones may be experiencing is; Mark Shuttleworth explained and demonstrated how the bottom swipe would bring up app-contextual menus. They are lean in my experience so far, but none more obvious than the example he used with photos; how you could bottom swipe on a photo and do some (presumably) basic image editing (ie. tint to sepia, crop, color adjust, etc.). There is no native image manipulation functionality that I’ve seen and nothing available in the Ubuntu Software Center either. This is an oversight that will hopefully be addressed in the near future.


My last critical comment is more of a suggestion. When people think about the Ubuntu phone they often think of the circular lockscreen graphic that has become iconic for the phone. I originally thought it would be more… animated than it actually is, but that’s alright. I understand and get how it functions now, showing roughly monthly activity. I’ll be curious to see how it morphs once I’ve used it for over a month. When I initially set up the Nexus 4, it only worked in a wifi setting, as I had no SIM card. I then decided to ask my provider if I could get a SIM card and turn service up for a month, which to my happy surprise, they could. So for the past few days, my Nexus 4 has had actual phone service, complete with SMS texts, etc. What this has to do with the Notification Center is this: initially I wondered if it was even working. It showed gmail and Twitter as being allowed to modify the center, but I never saw updates. Finally, after taking a photo with the phone and learning that when the notification lock screen is up you can double-tap on it to switch between notification types, photos taken, songs played, videos recorded, texts received, etc. But my humble suggestion for an improvement or option to the lock screen, is a setting where it toggles between all of those activity types (without the double-tab) which would also give it a certain illusion of animation. But it’s just a suggestion.


Apart from the aforementioned items, my experience using the Ubuntu phone has been very positive. Much is made of the limited apps that will be available initially, but for me, the apps I would and do use most often are already present. Amazon is already available. So is LinkedIn, GMail, Google Maps and Twitter. In most cases, like Twitter, it is really just an implementation of the mobile page for Twitter. But you know something…? It’s a mixed bag. On my Android phone I use the native Twitter app, and it does have much more functionality in settings and views, etc. though I really don’t use many of them. The native app shows pictures by default (rather than just a link to it) which on my standard plan isn’t a big deal, but on a budget data plan, not loading pictures automatically is probably a good thing. Additionally, on the native app I see sponsored tweets for companies or organizations I don’t follow that just pollute my timeline, whereas the mobile web page app, such as is provided on Ubuntu currently, doesn’t show sponsors tweets. In some ways, I’ve come to appreciate viewing it that way. But again, I’m sure that isn’t necessarily to everyone’s taste. But until such time as native apps are written, I’m okay with the web view and improved performance.

Much has been made of the use of Scopes rather than apps (necessarily), but I see both functioning very well on the phone. Some of the provided scopes aren’t altogether useful and/or I would like to see better use of some of them. For example, a scope for just Meetup that has to take me to the web to actually interact with Meetup isn’t very useful. The Today Scope is often shown in advertising for the phone, but I haven’t seen it on the phone itself yet. The Weather Channel scope, and Ubuntu News scope, as well the Music and Videos scopes are all nicely done. Using the Ubuntu SDK I’m hoping to create some web apps for some immediate needs – maybe a full qml native app or two later – and I want to learn to create scopes. One scope that I think would be useful would be an Agenda Scope that could pull calendar and reminder items for your relevant apps/services (Google Calendar, Meetup, native calendar, etc.) into one at-a-glance scope. A proper News Scope that could be customized with news sources (assuming that it works not unlike an RSS reader) would be welcome too.

Scopes, like Unity, seems to be taking some beating by folks resistant to change. Scopes certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, just as Unity didn’t satisfy everyone’s tastes. But that is the beauty of competition and choices and one of the best things that has been available to Linux users for a long time; if one thing doesn’t work for you, there are other options.

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Otherwise, I have found the phone to function incredibly smoothly and responsively and given that I’m using it on a rather beat-up old Nexus 4, I can only imagine that the performance on a newer piece of hardware, optimized to work with Ubuntu, must be very responsive and it’s something I look forward to later this year (if rumours passed along by OMG! Ubuntu are any indication). I hope by that time some of the minor issues are worked out and the main deal breaker of native email that I can connect to a (urp!) Microsoft Exchange Server for work email is in place. If that’s the case and if I had to say goodbye to Waze and PokerStars (until such time as they become available for Ubuntu) I will likely make that transition. There are doubtless other display and fundamental phone setting UI improvements that I’m sure could (and in all likely will) be made as the platform matures. And I’m willing to wait for the fabled convergence between the phone and my desktop – as a Linux user, I’m used to various iDevices and other devices not being recognized when USBd to my Ubuntu Desktop.

Nothing good is ever quick or easy, but it is often worth waiting for. Props to the Ubuntu Team. Keep up the good work!


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There’s a sort of serenity that one feels when wandering or hiking through a natural setting. When I was younger it seems like I was able to maintain or retain or conjure that feeling even after leaving the natural setting. At least for a time. As I get older it often seems more difficult to conjure that feeling by purely power of will. I think I need to compel myself to spend more of that time needed to take nature hikes, as our seemingly declining world requires ever more internalized serenity to endure. Of course, maybe it’s just me.

Slippery Slope

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Here is one of those headlines that invariably catches my interest. I seem to be alone among my circle of peers in that regard though. But that isn’t a surprise either, as I typically stand alone on most things. I just see things differently I guess.

Regarding the essence of this article, I deplore counterfeiting and slavery (and/or involuntary servitude) though I know most don’t see it that way. Most folks I know think counterfeiting isn’t counterfeiting or isn’t a bad thing when done by the government. I guess the same goes for slavery. I suppose I have a harder time than most making the necessary mental contortions to see those unethical and criminal acts differently based on who carries them out.

In the end, it may not matter, since the outcomes are the same.

Americans earning half the value they were 14 years ago!

Happy National Drink a Beer Day!!! – Beers that you should STOP drinking Immediately!!!

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Good information here. Of course, I would also recommend that beer lovers brew their own homebrew also and then be more conscientious about ingredients.

Be Like Water


Here’s some harmful ingredients that are commonly found in beer:

  • GMO Corn Syrup
  • GMO Corn
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Fish Bladder
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Natural Flavors
  • GMO Sugars
  • Caramel Coloring
  • Insect-Based Dyes
  • Carrageenan
  • BPA
  • & lots more!

Here are the 8 beers that are commonly found in bars in United States that you should stop drinking immediately.

1. Newcastle Brown Ale


The Newcastle beer has been found to contain caramel coloring. Class 3 and 4 caramel coloring is made from ammonia, which is classified as a carcinogen. “The one and only” beer with cancer causing qualities.

2. Budweiser


One of the most popular beers, or most advertised is Budweiser. Budweiser contains genetically modified (GMO) corn. In 2007, Greenpeace discovered experimental GMO rice in Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser) beer.

3. Corona Extra


I used to love Corona’s commercials. They were so peaceful and relaxing. That is until I found out that the beer contains GMO…

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