New kid on the block Joplin for notes

Joplin clientsI have a bit of history with note taking apps, having started with Evernote back when I had a Windows Pocket PC and moving to a bunch of different apps till I finally settled on Standard Notes.

Its really good and been using the listed feature for a my gratitude diary. However I checked out Joplin recently and quite like some of the features.

Evernote import works perfectly, meaning I get my rich evernotes back complete with attachments, Actually the way it handles attachments is a lot closer to Evernote. Syncing is done in a number of different ways including Dropbox, Webdav, etc and all done with encryption meaning its using the service as a file container like how I use keepass right now.I had tried to setup a standard notes sync server in the past but didn’t really put the effort in.

Standard note uses markdown which is good and quick but I like Joplin’s hybrid of markdown and html. This pushed further with web clippers in Firefox and Chrome. Making Joplin extremely useful for capturing online resources.

I like both but will find it tricky to use both although I noticed for example Joplin is really painful to use on my ereader, while standardnotes is super smooth. They are build for different purposes but working what do with each is a bit of a dilemma right now. Currently I have my evernote backup and standardnotes in Joplin thanks to export/import. Of course theres lots of duplicate notes which I really need to go through and delete, as I already imported my evernote into standard notes previously.

/e/OS: The beauty of open source

/e/os on a phone

I was quite impressed with the /e/OS project. I hadn’t really heard of it before but as I’m considering the balanced of google service and data in my life; especially with the plans to move UK citizens data/accounts outside the EU.

Taking the AOSP Android Open Source project and removing all the google parts is quite impressive. A real testament to the power of open source.

The interview with itsfoss is a good read, starting off with the question of what and why

Why did you create this Eelo or /e/ project in the first place?

Gael: In 2017, I realized that using Android and iPhone, Google and many mobile apps was not compatible with my personal privacy.

A later study by a US University confirmed this: using an iPhone or and Android phone sends between 6 to 12 MB of personal data to Google servers, daily! And this doesn’t count mobile apps.

So I looked for reasonable alternatives to iPhone and Android phones but didn’t find any. Either I found options for hobbyists, like Ubuntu Touch, that were not compatible with existing apps and not fully unGoogled either. Or there were alternative ROMs with all the Google fat inside, and no associated basic online services that could be used without tweaking the system.

Therefore, an idea came to mind: why not fork Android, remove all the Google features, even low level, such as connectivity check, DNS…, replace default apps with more virtuous apps, add basic online services, and integrate all this into a consistent form that could be used by Mum and Dad and any people without tech or expert knowledge?

I’d be interesting in what apps run on the operating system, as Google really have embedded Play services into everything now. When I first got my recent e-reader, it came with its own app store till you enable play services. That store was super small but it doesn’t have to be that way if you look at F-droid for example.

If I still had my Nexus 5x, I would likely give /e/os a try. I could run it on my Nexus 5 I guess but the screen is maybe too broken.

I have been thinking, following my use of Firefox multiple account containers use. Maybe something of a mashup of Blackberry’s Android profiles (anyone remember this?) and Firefox containers.

This certainly feels like a design challenge which could be massively beneficial to many, and showcase the beauty of opensource

Hey google, read me this page out for me?

I won’t lie, I’m pretty impressed again with Google when it comes to text to speech and speech to text. Like Robby, my use of Google Assistant may also sky rocket.

My regular, daily use of the Google Assistant is likely to skyrocket with this new feature that was just rolled out: the ability to read any web page aloud. Whether or not this sounds awesome to you in this moment, just go with me for a second as we unpack what is going on here and why it will likely be incredibly useful for many.

At its most basic, this new feature does exactly what you expect. It allows the Google Assistant to simply read web pages aloud to you in a natural-sounding voice with a nice cadence. Pauses for commas and periods are dictated the way you’d expect and the decidedly-digital voice sounds very natural. The Assistant reads off the title, the author, and then begins to read through the entire article, highlighting each word spoken along the way.

But it gets better. Way better. When you start a reading session, the entire thing happens in a dedicated media player that gives you options to play/pause, skip ahead or back, and change the playback speed from 0.5x all the way up to 3x. On top of that, the player behaves just like any other media player in that it provides the ability to continue playing when the screen is locked and gives you a rich notification with playback controls as well. This allows you to start up the reader for a long article and go about doing something else while the Assistant reads the entire thing to you. I will 100% start using this for my daily walks or when driving to ingest news that I would otherwise put off in hopes of finding time to read later.

Even better is the fact that websites don’t need anything special in place to take part in all this. No extra code, no tags, no meta data: the Assistant can read any web page unless the web developer for that site has included the proper meta tag that disallows this. I’m sure there are fringe cases where this would be needed, but I’d assume most sites you visit will be readable by the Google Assistant out of the box.

Its very impressive, and my only issues are not being able to read text out of other apps like wallabag or tiny tiny rss. Not being able to playlist a number of pages for reading. Also using Chrome is a bit of a pain (I tried to do this in Firefox for example)

 

Is the pixel 4 worth it?

My Google Pixel 4 battery stats

I was reading through my feed and saw this review of the Pixel4 4 moths later.If I was to write a review of the Pixel 4 months later, I would have some choice words to say. Many more than what I originally wrote.
BatteryThe Pixel 4 battery is weird. For example I’m on 43% and it will last till 9:30am tomorrow morning. However a few weeks ago I looked at my phone and noticed it was on 5% and I have no understanding why?
Generally I only charge it when I’m sleeping, but its only been 4-5 months. I think it might be one of the only phones I might need to replace the battery of in 18 months.There is hope of a ultra low power mode, which if its like Doze could be a game changer.SoliI have to echo the reviewer, as its sums it up and I turned it off except when using the Face ID.

For several years, Google has been working on Project Soli: a radar-based sensor system allowing a device to sense gestures with utmost precision. Fancy videos of the system in action show how virtual dials and buttons can be controlled effortlessly by the snap or flick of a finger. No touching the phone required.

The Pixel 4 and 4 XL are the first two phones to ship with Google’s radar-based system – and it’s bad on so many levels. First of all, its use is extremely limited. With a wave over the screen you can skip songs, mute alarms, or play with your Pokemon live wallpaper. That’s it, really.

To make things worst I turned off active edge and other sensing things as its just not important for me. Weirdly enough every few times I pick up my Pixel4 it vibrates.

Is it worth it?

Well its a good phone but a lot of the features have made it down to the Pixel 2. The Cameras are great but should I have waited for the Pixel 5 or 4A? I do feel I maybe should have replaced the battery on my Pixel 2 and maybe waited…

And where the **** is my Chromebook, Google?!pixeloffer chromebook statusI’m pretty annoyed about the Pixel4 chromebook offer. It was meant to come a little later after buying the Pixel4 but its been 4-5 months!

Getting on the self-hosted train again

Map of the fediverse.space

A long time ago, accessing cubicgarden.com meant accessing my direct server sitting in my home. I use to run Blojsom on top of Resin server. I was self hosting from my 512k ADSL line with 256k up (remember how fast that use to be to!?)

There were a lot of problems I grant you that but it mainly worked ok, although I didn’t like the sysadmin side of it all, as I was using Windows 2000 as the operating system. At some point I decided to switch to wordpress only because PHP hosting was cheaper than Java, although I got some incredible breaks during my time. In 2014 I moved my blog to WPengine thanks to dotBen

That was a while ago and since then I have massively upgraded my connection speed to 1gigabit up and down thanks to Hyperoptic and upgraded my server quite a bit (6 core AMD with 16 gig of memory). The first thing I did was installed Plex server.

Since then I have been slowly adding more services to my server. I guess the most noteworthy ones being tiny tiny rss, icecast2, plex and zerotier vpn (which I’m considering changing to wireguard with the recent announcements). Tiny tiny RSS is useful as I don’t like what feedly and others are doing with my data. Zerotier VPN is very cool and very much like the old and forgotten Hamachi. Because it uses internal ip addresses (non-addressable?) any device I have it connected with can access those addresses like they are on a internal network. This ultimately means I can access all my services including tiny tiny rss without opening up ports on my firewall and exposing it to the internet.

Anyway I’ve been thinking about adding more services to my server including Wekan (alternative to trello), Pixelfed (feiverse instagram), wisemapping (web based mindmapping tool), wallabag (alternative to instapaper), standardnotes server, mastodon (fediverse twitter), funkwhale (fediverse spoitfy), language tool (alternative to grammerly) and matrix (powerful alternative to slack).

Doing it under Ubuntu isn’t a problem as theres lots of tutorials and theres plenty which use Docker to manage everything.

But there is issue it seems when installing multiple services on top of each other. Most of the tutorials require a Apache or Ngnix then some SQL database. The tutorials are written like you are running just one service alone and things become more tricky when you have services using certain ports, etc. Trying to move the ports, database tables is sometimes tricky to follow.

Right now, I’m focused on doing one service at a time or really getting to grips with Docker which was meant to make this easier to deal with???

Ok so why selfhosting (and there is a lot of self-hosting services as I found here) and all the hassle?

I found something which sums it up nicely from a different but connected context.

Decentralized, peer-to-peer networks are evolutionarily superior to the bastardized corporate ‘sharing economy’ platforms like Uber and Lyft. Their billion-dollar budgets won’t save them from the inevitability of the blockchain-based peer-to-peer economy.

The decentralization revolution is here.

On buying the Fossil hybrid HR watch

fossil hybrid HR smartwatch face

During the seasonal period “I bought” a Fossil hybrid HR smartwatch. It was meant to replace my pebble smartwatch but it never came. I made the decision to give it a try after trying it on in the Fossil store in Manchester.

I found it online also found a discount code from Fossil for first time purchases. Ordered it and expected to come back home after xmas to a little present from myself. The Fossil invoice said it takes 4-5 business days

However after lots of chasing weeks after, I finally got a reply saying they had cancelled the order (without telling me) because they were completely out of stock for that model. It was frustrating  but they finally offered me a discount when it comes back into stock. However the discount was for less than my original discount.

I think I would be more annoyed if I hadn’t read this updated review of the smartwatch. I realised one feature the Fossil didn’t have was the ability to reply to messages or emails. Its something I use on my pebble a lot and seeing the message is useful but sending an acknowledgement of some kind is pretty essential.

Like the Motiv ring, being an early adopter can be troublesome and in this case its time to wait and see what others do in the hybrid smartwatch space.

A little tale of my motiv ring

My Motiv ring on my hand

I really enjoyed having my Bluetooth Motiv ring really, it is great except a little while ago it started to not sync properly. Reporting the wrong battery percentage, syncing inconsistently, asking to be upgraded and just being a general annoyance.

I complain back to Motiv and they tried to diagnose the problems I was having with the ring. After a few days they asked if I was playing volleyball with the ring on? I said yes and they suggested using the other hand when playing volleyball. This sounds fine but the problem I have is being ambidextrous in something’s like sports is I switch hands all the time.

I explained I bought the ring for the whole point of wearing it during sports because my pebble watch can not really be worn while playing volleyball.

They suggested a replacement ring however their UK/European supplier has changed and they couldn’t issue a replacement over the winter period. I’m thinking Brexit might have something to do with this? Anyway cutting a long story short, I was completely refunded and I get to keep my current faulty ring. Good stuff from Motiv and I may consider getting a replacement once I see what happens in the near future (maybe a second version will support a few more knocks?)

In the meanwhile, I relooked at the Oura ring 2 but frankly its a lot more and there are some serious flaws in the Android app (no google fit, export, etc).

I’ll stay put and keep wearing the Motiv ring till its completely useless, as its still capturing data and the app is still syncing with google fit.

Dropping Rescuetime for ActivityWatch

Activity Watch logo

I tend to weigh up different systems and applications I use every once in a while. Especially weighing up the benefits to me.

One such application is Rescue time.

I used it in the past and over the last few months reinstalled it again. However this time I tried to automate the reports out of the free account and pretty much failed. The only way I could really do it is if I paid for the pro account at the cost of (a discounted) $6.75 per month.

So enough I thought… A little look around alternative to and decided to give Activity Watch a try.

ActivityWatch is an app that automatically tracks how you spend time on your devices.

It is open sourceprivacy-firstcross-platform, and a great alternative to services like RescueTime, ManicTime, and WakaTime.

It can help you keep track of time spent on different projects, kick bad screen habits, or just understand how you spend your time.

Its pretty good and doesn’t drain my laptop while watching my laptop. Of course being local and under my control only, I don’t really need to worry so much about whats collected. You can of course limit things as you go, turn off tracking or just delete the data any time.

I have it on my Dell XPS laptop and on my work phone and its good except one thing. Currently there is no sync server, so each device has its own server. But they are working on this… Once they do, I’ll likely install it on my server and put the client on more of my devices.

The other thing I’m hoping for is to see more use of the stopwatch activity watch bucket (buckets are the pools of data collected). Since Project hamster is currently being rethought and I like to track my work progress alongside my activity.

As a whole the project has a lot of potential and worth the wait I hope for the features expressed above.

After all that hunting for new headphones, Bose make good

Black Bose on ear headphones

After all that time trying to get new headphones, after the problems with my 4 year old Bose on-ear headphones… I contacted Bose Support on Twitter and after a long direct message conversation they agreed there might be a problem with the battery.

I sent it to them earlier this year and just before xmas, they sent me the Bose triple black on ear headphones, as they didn’t do my original on the ear ones anymore.

IMG_20191229_121624

Not a bad result for 4 years of headphone use. Very glad I registered my headphones with Bose after coming back from Tokyo, just wish I contacted them earlier and saved myself all that hassle. Thanks Bose support for everything.

I’ll keep my other ones but really happy to not have noise cancelling as default now. Not ideal for walking the streets of the UK.

Do I like my Likebook Mars ebook reader?

Likebook mars ebook reader
Warning: There is a lot of Like puns ahead!

I recently bought the Likebook Mars ebook reader to replace my ENERGY SISTEM ebook reader. Why did I do this?

Well I liked my energy sistem as it was my very first android eink reader and fore-filled almost everything I was wishing for in a ereader. Its a great device but I found my reading habits changing. I mainly consume longer media content via audio or video rather than textual. I like text for reference, storage, retrieval and share ability. But my consumption was mainly aural. The Enegry sistem has no audio support at all, meaning I would use my phone for audio and occasionally look at the eink screen.

If I could have a ereader with audio too, that would be great for syncing and keep a track of things. Hence when I saw the Likebook (yeah I think its a silly name too) I consider it and bought it a few months later. Of course I’m selling my old ereader on ebay if interested.

After my research I knew I could do everything my previous one could do but also with the updated Android 6 operating system and more power might be able to run some apps which didn’t install or run previously. Its a very good device and the audio is spot on with my bluetooth headphones and a fallback analogue audio jack. At first I had some difficulty getting the google play store working but before I checked out the tutorials, I stumbled on the right settings, logged in and that was that.

The next problem wasn’t to do with the ereader but wallabag, which returned a error every time I synced. Finally after exporting then deleting a lot of archived pieces. This took a long time to diagnose and get sorted hence the long silence during the start of December on this blog.

Google play store on the likebook

Finally its all running correctly and I have almost everything on it.

I really like the fact there is now a lock screen because the previous one didn’t and I had to restrict a lot of its operations just incase. For example I disabled Gmail & Gdrive on it just incase. I know some of you will scream its running Android 6, so its game over anyway. But the previous one was running Android 4! I have taken care with the likebook but feel better about drivebys (as such). The amount of internal memory really helps as I can now stick ebooks and audiobooks on the same drive. Theres also a SD slot if more memory is ever needed. I can even put my VPN apps on it which is fantastic news.

Its a good device and now its settling down to its weeks of battery life after all the wallabag syncing.

IMG_20191220_191755

The only thing I miss really is the size of the device is 7.8 inches instead of 7 inches which makes it too big for my pockets including my jacket pocket. Weirdly enough, it almost fits in my headphones pouch, providing some protection from scratches in my laptop bag.

I like it so far… not quite over the mars about it but its growing on me.

Adobe audition uses XML like Audacity files

https://cubicgarden.com/2019/03/03/hooray-audacity-files-are-xml/

Today I tried to open a Adobe Audition file which a Salford student sent me for a potential perceptive podcast. I knew it wouldn’t open but I wanted to see which applications Ubuntu would suggest.

Instead it opened in Atom editor and I was surprised to find a reasonable XML file. It was confirmed after a quick search.

Similar to Audacity and FinalCutXML, all can be easily transformed with XSL or any other programming language. Extremely useful for future User Interfaces. Sure someone will do something with this one day?

A unscientific test: 90hz displays does it matter

I found this from Android Authority pretty good, I turned off 90hz display on my Google Pixel 4 ages from day one to help with the battery life. Its likely my good eyes would tell the difference but is it worth more than the battery life of the phone?

I think not… of course the comments begs to differ…

Down to my last Pebble smartwatch

Pebble 2 with and without a glitch

It was bound to happen but the last few days my pebble 2 watch has experienced a number of very bad glitches. The last glitch made it unreadable and although it was still working as normal which makes a difference from when the last two caved in on themselves.

So I think its time to stop buying old pebbles and maybe look at the hybrid smartwatch market instead.

To be honest I haven’t bought a pebble for quite some time, as I have happily taken from friends who no longer have use for them. The one which broke came from my line manager and my friend Ahmed. Gave me his colour Pebble time, which wil be my last after my pebble 2 white, which I had in storage.

My last lot of pebble watches side by side

Could a hybrid smartwatch be a replacement for the pebble?

fossil hybrid HR smartwatch face

I was reading about the Fossil hybrid HR smartwatch recently, and on the face of it (pun intended) it looks like a good smartwatch with all the features I would be after to replace my pebble smartwatch.

What’s the difference between a hybrid smartwatch and a regular smartwatch? In the hybrid category, Fossil’s Hybrid HR mixes physical watch hands with an always-on display that shows information and notifications. It almost feels like an old-school Pebble watch fused with an everyday analog-style watch.

I always swear by eink for these type of things, and I’m happy to hear its using eink too.

Keeping a smartwatch charged is incredibly annoying. Fossil’s newest line of hybrid smartwatches may have found an answer, and it’s E Ink. The Hybrid HR’s added display feels less like a screen and more of an extension of the watch, the sort of basic readouts that you might expect on a digital watch. Or, like what Google’s Wear OS watches offer, but in E Ink. To be clear, though, this isn’t Wear OS. It almost reminds me of what the TicWatch Pro tried for by layering an always-on display on top of a feature-packed smartwatch, but the Hybrid HR looks a lot nicer.

Earlier this year, Google reportedly paid $40 million for Fossil smartwatch technology that could enable hybrid watches. The Hybrid HR looks like it is, indeed, the watch tech that earlier reports thought Google was interested in… and it’s here now.

I will be keeping en eye on this category, because although I like the Hybrid HR, I’m not so keen on round faces and I’d need to get a sense if theres sleep tracking support? Or more so if theres going to be a standard for watch apps like WearOS and the Pebble OS.

The Google Pixel 4 battery needs some help

89% battery on my Pixel4

There is a lot of discussion about the lack of battery for the Google Pixel 4. To be fair its been pretty good to me, but its certainly not the same type of battery life of my pixel2 or nokia8 which lasted a few days at ease.

More details about the battery use
Fedilab what the?

The picture above is with Wifi, Bluetooth (with my pebble, motiv ring attached), NFC,  KDEconnect, dark mode and most of the apps I run daily.

To be fair I don’t use the screen much, relying on my pebble watch, KDEconnect for some interactions.

34% battery on my Pixel4

After a day of usage, I end up with 34% but it claims to last till 8:15 if I decided to keep it going, however I think that would drop massively with my sleep tracking.

Its all workable right now but I do hope they will drop the high refresh rate in favor of better battery life? Its super slick but I was happy with my Pixel2, so I’m not so bothered about higher refresh rates.

As I talk about the Pixel4… here’s a few things which I have done.

I turned off the radar ambient stuff because I found it annoying, so it won’t do the face unlock till I press the power button on the side. As usual I turn off the ambient display because like notification lights/sounds its annoying. The Face unlock is stupidly fast and its worked in almost every single scenario including a pitch black room with no lights. I do find the no eyes quite scary as I do take security pretty seriously and find Google’s lockdown not the most workable thing but its a stopgap. I do wish there was a fingerprint option or something to fill the void between the two, as typing in passwords each time is quite painful, especially when I have some stupid length passwords.

Expect more about the Pixel4 soon…