The Asus C434 Chromebook

Asus Chromebook Flip C434 review image 1

I recently bought myself a new Chromebook. I considered getting a Dell XPS13 (which is my work machine) or Lenovo X1 carbon but decided I wanted to replace my old Asus Chromebook which I was giving to my parents to replace their very old Samsung Chromebook.

Its been good to have my own laptop as a backup when my work laptop goes wrong for what ever reason (i’m currently running it off a external SSD). I have enjoyed the Android integration in the past but when I learned about the Linux integration and I was sold.

I opted for the i5 version with 128gig of storage and 8 gig of memory. Why? Well I decided it needed to be slightly more powerful and act a bit more like a full laptop if it was going to run Linux apps. I see this Chromebook as a laptop I can use for most things including audio/image editing. Originally I got a good deal on a refurbished version which was great except Bluetooth was broken and it had to go back. I then bought this laptop brand new and it was shopped and delivered in all of 18 hours!

So far I have only installed htop, inkscape, Joplin, audacity, barrier, cheese and firefox in the linux terminal (love that its ian@penguin in the terminal and I have firefox installed!) then decided to install Flatpak on ChromeOS, I considered installing Snap but it sounds problematic currently.

Just checking out a bunch of ChromeOS blogs and I found this reddit faq useful to fix my linux install when it broke after I installed it and shutdown my chromebook too early.

Generally I’m very happy with this Asus Chromebook and its a good size, weight and I still love the tablet mode.

My dyslexic advantage audio interview

During the last few months I have recorded a number of podcasts on a number of different subjects; form Tech for good live blacklivesmatter specials, a late night conversation with Tara Hunt to a discussion with Cathy about the future.

I did also recorded one for Sam talks which will go up soon (about Adaptive podcasting).

However I was very humbled to be asked to recorded one with the fine folks at the Dyslexic Advantage. I half mentioned it previously but it went live last month under the inspirational people category. Its members only content, so I can’t send you a link, however I highly recommend being a paid member if you are dyslexic, are a partner/parent of someone with dyslexia or would like support the further research into dyslexia.

The folks behind the Dyslexic Advantage were happy for me to share this interview and I will remind people (they never asked for this). The Dyslexic Advantage is a 501(c)3 charitable organisation that needs support. Support via the Premium subscriptions and donations are welcomed.

The interview is a in-depth discussion about my dyslexic journey from an early age to where I am now. Listening back to it, it sounds like I had it all planned out but honestly I didn’t. I did have a certain amount of foresight about where I wanted to be based on my experiences. There was certainly a lot of decisions about rebelling against the status-quo and finding my own trajectory forward. If you want to see the full list of recommendations for young people its here.

Don’t forget the book is a great book to get! You can get it in ebook, audiobook and physical form.

We the Privileged

Douglas Rushkoff’s latest medium piece is something I urge all to read.

Its a very uncomfortable read for us who have retreated to our homes with yearly salaries, beautiful gardens and not having to deciding between a  earning an income and risking our household lives.

How much are we allowed to use our wealth and our technologies to insulate ourselves and our families from the rest of the world? And, like a devil on our shoulder, our technology is telling us to go it alone. After all, it’s an iPad, not an usPad.

We are all guilty of this, its human nature but Douglas is right, we need to think again. Theres ways to make things better for us all not just ourselves.

Many of us once swore off Amazon after learning of the way it evades taxes, engages in anti-competitive practices, or abuses labor. But here we are, reluctantly re-upping our Prime delivery memberships to get the cables, webcams, and Bluetooth headsets we need to attend the Zoom meetings that now constitute our own work. Others are reactivating their long-forgotten Facebook accounts to connect with friends, all sharing highly curated depictions of their newfound appreciation for nature, sunsets, and family. And as we do, many of us are lulled further into digital isolation — being rewarded the more we accept the logic of the fully wired home, cut off from the rest of the world.

Guilty, I recently bought a new chromebook (currently typing this on it) but about to give my old one to my parents. I will take their old one back and likely donate it somewhere as its still useful but no longer supported.

The amount of sunsets I have taken has increased and reaching out to friends and family for a catch up has been great. All while complaining about 7 zoom meetings in a row. There is a aspect of relativity to account for this all but the point is digital isolation is only afforded to a privileged group of people.

And so the New York Times is busy running photo spreads of wealthy families “retreating” to their summer homes — second residences worth well more than most of our primary ones — and stories about their successes working remotely from the beach or retrofitting extra bedrooms as offices. “It’s been great here,” one venture fund founder explained. “If I didn’t know there was absolute chaos in the world … I could do this forever.”

Here is the kicker. Even myself, has considered could I actually do this for much longer? Of course I don’t have a summer home, live in a very hot flat with a shared garden, etc. But I have a 1gig a bit fibre connection, the expertise, experience and technology to do this for much longer. I also don’t have kids so could happily do this (working from home) for quite a bit longer. I’m actually aiming to be the very last person back in the office because except for my work laptop SSD problem I can do almost everything I need for work remotely. I certainly am protecting myself as I am at slightly more risk than most but I already mentioned how I’m considering my location for working. I know a lot of people are thinking the same if they don’t need to be close to work or in cities. For me this is more of a reason to be in the city and maybe the prices of city centres will become more affordable in the long run? I’m very aware of my privileged position being able to actually consider these options with a career I love. We all need to remember and act on this… but I’m the wrong person to be saying this…

I have also been watching Anand Giridharadas who is pointing in the same direction as Rushkoff. Our self interest has clouded our vision. He gave this powerful talk at a recent TED event, which included this quote (mainly aimed at Americans)…

If you live near a Whole Foods Market , if no one in your family served in the military, if you are paid by the year and not the hour, if most people you know finished college, if no one you know uses meth, if you married once and remained married, if you not one of 65 million americans with a criminal records. if any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that actually you may not know whats going on and you may be part of the problem.

I guess if you were translating that to the UK it would be…

If you live near a Waitrose supermarket, if no one in your family served in the arm forces, if you are paid by the year and not the hour, if most people you know finished college, if no one you know smokes pot, if you married once and remained married, if you not one of 11 million people with a criminal record. if any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that actually you may not know whats going on and you may be part of the problem.

All really powerful thinking and connects directly with another blog I recently posted.

Income, wealth inequality and corporate monopolies

I found this video a interesting watch. A couple of the guests Timothy Snyder and Anand Giridharadas, focused on income and wealth inequality and corporations/monopolies.

Timothy Snyder reminded me very much of the talk and books (the spirit level and inner level) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett of the equality trust.

SNYDER: One of the fundamental problems with our American, right-wing politics of inevitability is that it generates income and wealth inequality and it explains away income and wealth inequality. And so, you get this cycle where, objectively, people are less and less well off and subjectively we keep telling ourselves this is somehow okay because in the grand scheme of things this is somehow necessary. Individuals and families no longer think ‘I’ve got a bright future.’ They no longer believe—and this is something Mr. Trump got right even if he has no solution and he’s making things worse on purpose—they no longer believe in the American Dream. And they’re correct not to do so. If you were born in 1940, your chances of doing better than your parents were about 90 percent. If you were born in 1980 your chances are about one in two and it keeps going down. So, wealth inequality means the lack of social advance, means a totally different horizon—it means that you see life in a completely different way. You stop thinking time is an arrow which is moving forward to something better and you start thinking hmm, maybe the good old days were better. Maybe we have to make America great again and you get caught in these nostalgic loops. You start thinking it can’t be my fault that I’m not doing better, so whose fault is it? And then the clever politicians instead of providing policy for you provide enemies for you. They provide language for you with which you can explain why you’re not doing so well. They blame the other, whether it’s the Chinese or the Muslims or the Jews or the Blacks or the immigrants and that allows you to think okay, time is a cycle, things used to be better but other people have come and they’ve taken things away from me. That’s how the politics of inevitability becomes the politics of eternity. Wealth inequality, income inequality, is one of the major channels by which that happens.

While Anand Giridharadas reminded me of Cory Doctorow’s new book/post in medium.

GIRIDHARADAS: If you’re telling me that there are companies that do none of this stuff, that pay people well, that don’t dump externalities into the economy, that don’t cause social problems. If there are such companies that exist, yeah, then once you’ve taken care of all that, great, doing some projects to help people is great. But I haven’t found very many such companies and more often than not when companies do a lot of CSR it’s because they understand that they’re not on the right side of justice in their day operations, so they want to do virtue as a side hustle. And the problem is a lot of these companies tend to create harm in billions and then do good in the millions. And you don’t need to be a mathematician to know that we’re the losers from that bargain. And you look at the B Corp movement, there’s a lot of companies that actually have an interest in trying to invent a new kind of company that is not predatory. There is, in the B Corp movement, a certification process for those companies now. The challenges of them is that it’s a great thing but it’s fundamentally voluntary and what this does is it means that if you’re an already good, virtuous company you may be motivated to get into this club. But if you’re Exxon or Pepsi you’re not going to be in this club. One of the things I’d like to see is how can we actually use the power of public policy to get more companies to sign up to simply not dump harm, social harm, into our society whether that takes the form of toxic sludge or obese children or workers with unpredictable hours and income.

The full transcript is here.

 

Estonia’s Digital Nomad Visa, very tempting

Tallinn, Estonia
About 3 years ago I signed myself up for Estonia’s e-residency programme.I have used a few times for ID and sending state backed emails, but ever since Brexit became a reality I have thought imagine if it could be used to spend more time in Europe? This is why I was so impressed when the digital nomad visa became a reality.

Because of this, I have been looking much more deeply into the idea of actually going back to Tallinn for 6 months when/if the current pandemic is more under real control. I have been pretty clear about trying to live in Europe at least for a short while. Originally the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden were hot my list but I’d like to just give it a try. The digital nomad visa looks perfect for this.My Estonian e-residency ID

I like to think of myself as a digital nomad, so maybe its time to test the logic? I know one thing for sure… Its been over 6 months since I was last in work. Besides my Ubuntu SSD issue (long story, but its something I can’t fix myself without wiping out the existing work settings) everything workwise has been fine.

Between a lot of cloud applications like Zoom, Slack, Google drive, Dropbox, etc. Its very clear I could do this from almost anywhere with a good internet connection. Of course with my personal cloud applications running on my server such as Plex, a number of docker apps, etc. I was recently checking out cryptpad.

I did notice thanks to the e-residency newsletter than Tallinn and Estonia featured recently in a episode of Netflix’s new science show called connected.

Tallinn

Estonia features in an episode of a new science series now available on streaming service Netflix, where the country is highlighted for its trail-blazing digital development.

“Connected”, a U.S. show hosted by science journalist Latif Nasser, looks at the various ways people are connected to each other and the world around them.

Episode 5 of the series, “Clouds”, visits Estonia and sees first-hand the country’s cloud-based digital infrastructure, as well as taking a turn in a smoke sauna.

The show has already received rave reviews, with the New York times listing it as their recommended show to watch Sunday, or at any time.

Presenter Latif Nasser notes that it is difficult not to get jealous of Estonians.

“Imagine you can vote in the sauna, register your company in the hot tub or declare taxes in the toilet,” he says.

Estonia's ID system

I finally bought the Oura smart ring

Oura  vs Motiv smart rings

I decided its about time I upgraded my smart ring. I originally bought the Motiv ring because it supported Android, had a better price tag and was interested in the 2 factor authentication.

It was good but then I hit a problem about 6 months down the line and although Motiv did the right thing of refunding me completely and letting me keep the ring. It certainly felt like it was on its way to unsupported space with the new owners.

Oura vs Motiv smart rings

So with the new Oura being a bit cheaper and finally some proper Android support, I decided its time.

First impressions are very good, the app is better than Motiv’s and the ring feels a lot more robust. It has 3 different contact points while the Motiv has one. I took the risk of skipping the ring sizing as I knew my size from the Motiv ring. Luckily they were very close but the Oura is a bit bigger giving me more options of fingers to use.

The app now finally syncs with Google fit (one of the biggest complaints for Android owners). I also noticed there is the ability to download the raw data in Json format. I do find the app a little messy but its got all what is needed and if not you can login on the web and see/manage your data.

Oura's charger

If I was going to say one bad thing about it, it would be simply the charger is quite big compared to the Motiv one, which I was able to carry around on my keychain. But its not like I’m going away for a long while, and I noticed the airplane mode which is great.

Currently everyone is using Oura and its the right decision if you need the best tracker on the market. Just glad I didn’t get it when it was mainly iOS as it would have been extremely annoying.

Looking forward to seeing its sleep tracking as the Motiv was pretty awful. Thankfully I use Sleep as Android.

The Future of Media with the Firestarter

Future insiders with Cathy Hackl

Future insiders with Cathy Hackl, was one of the last podcasts I did over the summer. Cathy Hackl I met a few years ago while in Belgium during Fuel 2018.

We chatted and shared many experiences including some of the diversity & inclusion in the industry. She was friendly and full of interesting thoughts about the future. I honestly warmed to her warm personality and it helped with Cathy being from a Lantio background when talking about D&I. It was also very clear Cathy was on her way upwards, her background working with the likes of Oculus, HTC Vive and Magic leap was just the start.

We stayed in touch and when I heard Cathy was setting up her own podcast I thought I need to subscribe. It wasn’t that long after Cathy got in touch and asked if I’d like to be guest on the show. Of course I agreed.

Massive thanks to Cathy for having me on as a guest, we certainly could have spoke for much longer. Hopefully this may happen much sooner than we think…?

If you are looking for the RSS feed its here.

I can’t tell you how much the firestarter title has gotten me places a producer couldn’t touch.

Amazon halo…be afraid be very afraid

There is so much I wanted to say about the Amazon Halo health/fitness tracker. The Twit.tv video above pretty much sums up my thoughts. I haven’t read through the halo privacy policy yet, but others are picking bit out already.

Amazon Halo privacy concerns

Wherever there are body scans, always-on microphones and a tech giant in the same service, there’s bound to be security concerns. Amazon knows this, and has already outlined what privacy will look like for future Halo users.

Halo health data is encrypted in transit and in the cloud, and sensitive data, like body scan images, are deleted once processed. Meanwhile, voice analysis is processed entirely on the user’s smartphone and deleted after. Nothing is recorded for playback — users can’t even listen to their own speech samples.

All Amazon Halo data can be managed and deleted in the Halo app. Your Halo account is also separate from your Amazon Prime one, so anyone you share your Prime account with won’t be able to access your private health information.

This for me is one of the things people in the Quantified Self movement were always worried about.

Do you trust Amazon with this much personal data?
Whats the actual pay off?
Is it all actually worth it?

Then you have to ask the question what makes it different from other quantified self devices and systems?

#BlackLivesMatter and Wakanda forever

I personally haven’t said much about the riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin (I also have been to Kenosha in the past). Once again another black person (Jacob Blake) shot in America. Don’t get me started about Kyle.

I can’t say enough about the death of Chadwick BosemanKing T’Challa

For a bit of light relief, you need to check out the Black Jeopardy with T’Challa. He will be massively missed and was a genuine great king.