Google Stadia early reviews

There’s been a rash of reviews about Google Stadia but I found Android Authority one of the best video reviews. The verge have good coverage if you prefer to read.

I found data usage quite surprising…

Stadia data usage at 720p

When playing Stadia on my Windows PC through the Chrome browser at 720p, Stadia used between 12 and 20Mbps. In contrast, a Netflix stream used about the same amount, but Netflix can buffer content to stop streaming constantly. Because Stadia is always pulling data and can’t buffer, it will use a lot more data.

You could technically use Stadia connected to a mobile hotspot, but I’d strongly advise against it if you have a limited data plan. Playing Stadia at 720p used about 7GB per hour.

Don’t expect to be playing Stadia at your local coffee shop without some comments or a lot of lag. I wonder if most of the cheap routers can sustain bandwidth like that anyway?

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.

Pebble 2 smartwatch won’t re-connect after Android 10

Pebbles growing in work

I like many Google Pixel users recently got the Android 10 upgrade. It was smooth and everything was in order except there was a notification that the Pebble/Rebble smartwatch software may need to be upgraded as it might be incompatible with the Android 10.

What follows was a long painful process trying to pair the Pebble 2 with my Pixel 2 phone. It took forever and ended up with me unpairing both rebooting both and repairing the whole lot again. Nothing was lost in the process but its a real painful process and I thought, once its done, its done forever.

However I was wrong. It seems like this happens every few weeks? Others have suggested it happens when the Pixel doesn’t see the pebble for a little while. Someone started a bug issue with Google, thankfully and I added my own comment to the growing list.

If you are having similar issues, do add a comment to show Google there is a problem and maybe the Bluetooth LE stack might be at fault? Although I’ve not had a problem with my Motiv Ring yet?

Google takeout to the rescue?

My Motiv ring on my hand

So recently I’ve gone into Quantified Self overload with my new Motiv Ring, added to my Pebble smartwatch for sleep tracking.

The ring is very good, but the app isn’t the best, its seems to work but isn’t very clear when its not syncing with the ring. Also I knew the 2 day battery was going to be a pain but to date I’ve been charging it every 2 days and never got to the point where its gotten below 44%.

As the app is pretty rubbish, I have sent everything to Google fit. I pretty much have everything synced with Google fit now.

The first time I noticed it was all working, was when I looked at sleep as android which I use with my pebble smartwatch and noticed my heart rate over the top of my sleep data.

Sleep data with heart rate
I warn you the sleep is a mess due to my flu I currently have… also why I’ve not blogged those great conferences I’ve been to recently.

Likewise I recently hooked up my Withings/Nokia iot scale to Google fit. The scale has its own app which isn’t bad but frankly its not great. It suffers from the similar problems as most of the quantified apps attached to a device or service; they want to be the centre of the world. Reminds me of my Fitbit which import everything but export little.

I understand Google fit is mining the heck out of my quantified data but with Google takeout, I can get the raw numbers in one place. Everyone wants to sync with Google fit and the dashboard view is far better than what everyone else right now.

I’ve also set it up to send me an update every 2 months. Now that’s pretty neat. Would I pay for a service to do this? Yes I would, how much is the question…

Google Titan key security problem?

I was sure I tooted/tweet a thank you to the Google team in Berlin’s Re:publica conference. But it looks like it never quite happened due to connectivity issues with the wifi at certain points of the day.

So first of all I want to say thanks for giving me a titan security key for spending time listening to what changes Google had made to their security as announced in Google IO 2019.

I was surprised to see Google there with all the ill feeling about the 5 stacks, their monopoly and business practice.

But before I could get home try the key/system, I saw a bunch of problems with the key.

Google Titan Bluetooth Security Key Can Be Used to Hack Paired Devices

Titan-ic disaster: Bluetooth blunder sinks Google’s 2FA keys, free replacements offered

Obviously I was a little concerned, although I had not added the titan key to my google 2 factor auth yet.

After a bunch of reading, it seems its not completely flawed. The Google security blog confirms my research.

The problem is with the Bluetooth fob which to be honest is super convenient wasn’t the most secure idea in the world. The bluetooth stack is limited in its range but because of that, its not got as much security as most things on the net.

Due to a misconfiguration in the Titan Security Keys’ Bluetooth pairing protocols, it is possible for an attacker who is physically close to you at the moment you use your security key — within approximately 30 feet — to (a) communicate with your security key, or (b) communicate with the device to which your key is paired. In order for the misconfiguration to be exploited, an attacker would have to align a series of events in close coordination:

When you’re trying to sign into an account on your device, you are normally asked to press the button on your BLE security key to activate it. An attacker in close physical proximity at that moment in time can potentially connect their own device to your affected security key before your own device connects. In this set of circumstances, the attacker could sign into your account using their own device if the attacker somehow already obtained your username and password and could time these events exactly.

Before you can use your security key, it must be paired to your device. Once paired, an attacker in close physical proximity to you could use their device to masquerade as your affected security key and connect to your device at the moment you are asked to press the button on your key. After that, they could attempt to change their device to appear as a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse and potentially take actions on your device.

This all being a big mistake, Google has offered a replacement key. However because my key hasn’t been added to my account yet, I get a message saying no action is required but a email to override this. However after double checking my key is a type T3 meaning it wasn’t effected.

Good work Google…

If you are using whatsapp… update now and consider swapping to Signal!

Whatsapp on a mobile phone

Whatsapp, never used it never will. But I know many many of my friends do – please do update! Or even better dump it and use Signal messenger.

A security flaw in WhatsApp can be, and has been, exploited to inject spyware into victims’ smartphones: all a snoop needs to do is make a booby-trapped voice call to a target’s number, and they’re in. The victim doesn’t need to do a thing other than leave their phone on.

The Facebook-owned software suffers from a classic buffer overflow weakness. This means a successful hacker can hijack the application to run malicious code that pores over encrypted chats, eavesdrops on calls, turns on the microphone and camera, accesses photos, contacts, and other information on a handheld, and potentially further compromises the device. Call logs can be altered, too, to hide the method of infection.

The issue affects WhatsApp for Android prior to v2.19.134, WhatsApp Business for Android prior to v2.19.44, WhatsApp for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp Business for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp for Windows Phone prior to v2.18.348, and WhatsApp for Tizen prior to v2.18.15.

I bought a Chromebook

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDIhZZJQWRw

The other day my work Dell XPS 13 which has been running Ubuntu 16.04.1 asked me to upgrade. This message has been coming up for a while but I decided it was time for a upgrade, 18.04 was running well on my server and well it was time.

However the upgrade broke and I was left with Ubuntu 18.04 with Busybox. I had backups but as it was a BBC R&D build of Ubuntu, I needed to go to work for them to reinstall it. All of this was just before I went away to Mydata 2018 in Helsinki. On top of that my ubuntu server also had a problem.

Double wammy!

It was clear I could reinstall Ubuntu quickly but I would need to do a bunch of configuration and that takes time. I have a task to create a live CD with a bunch of configurations just for me, incase similar happens again.

I’d been looking at Chromebooks since I bought one for my parents ages ago and seen how ChromeOS has matured. I’m not the only one. It was the ability to run Android and Linux apps which pushed to get one.

Google Makes it Easier to Run Linux Apps on Chromebooks

So I bought the Asus chromebook flip c302, and I’m quite impressed with it. The size is good and the performance is good. As a backup laptop its ideal. It also kinda a solution to my lack of a decent tablet now my Nexus 7 is pretty much dead. I was tempted with the Google Pixelbook but it seemed too close to what the Dell XPS 13 is for.

I did consider getting a second hand XPS and sticking ChromeOS on it myself actually.

How I listen to podcasts in 2018

Me listening to podcasts in madrid

I had quite a bit of time to read and listen to podcasts during my holiday in Portugal and Spain. One of the posts I read was Adrian talking about current his tech stack.

But I thought it might be good to talk about how I finally sorted out my podcast setup as it includes many parts of my current tech stack.

I listen to podcasts and audiobooks quite a lot. If I was still using last.fm I could likely quantify exactly how much but through my setup I’ll reveal a rough number at the end.

Listening devices

I listen to podcasts in the morning via Xbian running on Raspberry Pi 2 (considering switching to rasplex but Yaste remote supports Plex and Xbian as a audio endpoint/upnp renderer) which I bought a long while ago. This is setup in my room via ethernet and connected to a small amp and stereo speakers, one in my bedroom and one wired into the bathroom. I decided to do this after trying Bluetooth and FM speakers but they were just too quiet or unclear. Nothing beats a dedicated non-battery device. The wiring could do with a clean up. The Raspberry Pi is also connected to a audio splitter with one going to a FM transmitter.

This broadcasts to my little micro-hifi in the kitchen which I got from ebay over 10 years ago; its handy for multi-room synced audio without messing around (although I considered using a Chromecast audio and other things). The small amp in my room is connected to a TpLink HS100 smart switch meaning I can turn it off when leaving easily and quickly. I have only set it up for local wifi access not remote access, because frankly why would I need to this?

When not at home I use Google Pixel 2, I decided to get the 128gig version because I had enough of dealing with space issues. I have plex client installed and I have a plex pass (life time subscription), so can sync podcasts and audiobooks with ease. I do have it on my Nexus 7 and 5x too, but don’t carry them around much. I find Plex client is pretty good and doesn’t eat too much battery. Syncing seems seamless but with offline support sync support and 12gig of mobile 4G data. Because its using Plex at the backend, plex will save position no matter what device, as I’m logged in using the same account.

I also have Chrome Plex client on my laptop, meaning I can keep on listening when at work. Yes I listen to podcasts and audiobooks while working. I know many find this unthinkable but it works for me.

Plex Media Server

I’ve had Plex mediaserver running for quite a long time now and the advantages of having a gigabit internet connection and decent vpn (zerotier) means I can stream, sync or download podcasts and audiobooks without any fuss to my own devices. Plex media server keeps the position and checks for updates to the server filesystem.
Plex indexes the podcasts and audiobooks as audio and with some tweaking works quite well, although it can get confused when podcasts numbering and dates. It would be great if it had a audiobook and podcast indexer to pull much more metadata.

Podcatching

Unfortunately Plex media server doesn’t actually support podcasts which would be great if it did but its a pain to get working and not worth it for me. Especially because I have a complete Ubuntu stack its running on.
Because of this I use to download the podcasts from the web using a native ubuntu app. I tried Gpodder and Rhythmbox but they were resource hungry when downloading 30+ podcasts. Then tried VLC but it seemed over kill just to download podcasts. So tried some command line programs including Podfox and podcatcher. In the end I used Podget then setup a cron to trigger it every 2-4 hours. I also have Podget clean up the podcasts every 3 months.

One of the biggest things which drove me nuts was adding and updating rss feeds. Someone says you listen to the guilty feminist podcast, and would have to update server configs, etc. But using my Tiny tiny RSS install, I now have all the podcasts added to the master subscription list and generate a custom RSS feed aggregated for podcasts. I add the generated feed to Podget and the next time its updated, it will automatically add new items.

Because its done via TTRSS, it means I can add & remove the feed via any TTRSS client including the one my phone or using the web interface via my VPN (I only expose the web interface that way).

Small pieces loosely joined

It sounds like a lot of work but honestly it works well and means I can remove a part of it and it will still work. Remove Podget, could be replaced with anything including VLC, etc. Plex could be replaced with Emby or another mediaserver. TTRSS could be anything self-hosted. Using Plexpy to log is under my own terms and the data is only shared and useable by me.

I do wish I could get to this type of space with so much more of the services I use. Right now, I’m quite impressed with how smooth everything works.

Looking forward

I’m looking at a way to tag and generate a feed out of the tags in TTRSS, instead of adding it to a hierarchy. Sometimes a feed could fit between two or more places. I’d also like to improve plex’s indexing around podcasts and audiobooks. Podget generates a m3u playlist file but not found much use for these yet. I also wish the plex input for kodi was less heavy.

I just added the Recode podcast while writing this post and I looking at my plex client on my Pixel 2. Podget downloaded all the episodes over my gigabit connection in about 6mins flat, the podget won’t remove them till a few months old but I can easily remove them via plex or directly from the file system over the VPN.

As promised, looking at Tautulli (what use to be PlexPy). Over the last 3 weeks I had 83 plays or 22 hrs 14 mins of playback.  The last podcast I listened to while on the Madrid Metro to the airport at 7:30am was Rob Reid’s Always on podcast – Episode 23: Rodney Brooks | Robotics & AI – Their Present & Future

Not enough detail?

If you are interested in any detail, just comment or tweet me for more info.

 

I bought a Google Pixel 2 and its bloody fast

Google Pixel 2

After my Google Nexus 5x died a few weeks ago, I switched back to my very old Nexus 5 with the broken screen. It was painful, especially with no fingerprint and of course the pixel filled screen. Knowing I would be switching, I put the bear minimum amount of apps on it and played the wait game with my google authenticator.

In the end I pre-ordered the Pixel 2 (which keep calling the Nexus 2) from Carphone Warehouse (mainly because I needed to guarantee I could get it at a certain day, before heading away)

It costed so much my credit card company rejected the transaction and I didn’t get the ability to say it was me before they rejected it. Yes the cost was eye watering but mainly because I’m use to the Nexus lines of £200 ish. Yes I considered other phones but I liked having pure google and the reviews of the Pixel2 were good (I didn’t get the XL version with the odd colour screen). The alternative colour ones were going take too long so stuck with pure black.

When I finally got my hands on it (Thursday) I was surprised how smooth, silky and solid it was. Compared to my Nexus 5x, it was quite a different feeling. You can feel the quality of design and build compared to the Nexus range.

Pixel 2

There are a lot of reviews of the in-depth Pixel 2 reviews so I won’t try and do that. But some surprises I had.

The speed of the fingerprint is out of control now, my nexus 5x was fast but this is like warp speed. The general speed of Oreo is zippy, especially compared to my dead Nexus 5x which got the upgrade soon before it died. I had some problems with the wifi but a reboot seems to have fixed it. Having 128gig of space online is kind of crazy, so finally my Plex life time subscription is making a lot more sense. I’m syncing all my podcasts and a lot of audiobooks. Trying to decide if I should put all my single tunes on it or not?

Moving things over was a bit painful only because I only had my backup Nexus 5 with the basic number of things on it not the Nexus 5x. The USBC to female USB A dongle was pretty handy I have to say, although I have done similar with NFC previously to start the pairing process.

Not having a audio jack isn’t a big pain for me as I’ve been monitoring how often I actually use the audio jack since the iphone jack removal; and it was low to not at all. The USB C jack is included and I also have a number of Bluetooth audio jacks I can use easily enough including on my helmet. Battery life so far seems very good with a whole day of my non-use taking only 38% of the battery. The figure said I had another day and a bit of battery use. I had a problem with the Wifi for a bit, which was only noticeable in things streaming like Yaste and Plex but after its second ever restart its all good now.

The camera is insanely fast and I reduced the resolution down because shooting 12+ mega pixel pictures is not so needed generally, although there is plenty of space. For the first time, I have also reduced my font size down to smallest across the whole of the phone, because the screen dpi is excellent enough for me to read the tiny text comfortability; oh and the Redshift feature finally means I loose twilight.

Generally I’m quite impressed with the Pixel 2 (but the price is still eye watering) but its only its 3rd day. Its super fast on everything including unlocking, switching tasks and taking pictures.

Update – Sunday 12th Nov

 

I felt like I needed to do a quick update.

I still am impressed with the Pixel 2 but every once in a while, the phone will just turn off (its happened 4 times so far). It always happens when using the Bluetooth headphones; I’ll be walking along and it will suddenly go silent like its lost the bluetooth connection, but my headphones doesn’t say its lost the connection. When I pull out my phone its blank and needs to be reset. Only then does the headphones say its lost the siginal. Its weird and I’ve done everything except reinstalling the phone

Besides this the phone is pretty solid and reliable. The Battery is still excellent and most of the time its only used 15-25% over the course of a day. I seen Google are rolling out updates for the Pixel 2 XL screen problem hopefully this will be high on their bug list too.

Android Oreo upgrade on my Nexus 5x

Nexus 5x with Oreo upgrade

3 days ago I received the OTA update for Android Oreo on my Nexus 5x. I wasn’t really expecting it, as I’ve been keeping an eye out for my next phone (which is likely to be a Google Pixel 2 even at its much higher cost than my Nexus 5x)

Honestly I haven’t seen much differences except the background tasks are now in your face. Which isn’t a problem as I don’t have a lot running all the time (Timeused, Pebble & Twlight), be interesting to see how long apps like Uber stay in the background

I have noticed a drain on battery, for example my battery is at 88% right now and will stay alive for the next 9 hours. But to be fair its a old battery, I think the same use on Android N would be closer to 92% maybe.

Some of regular menus are shifted around and the small text which I have my phone set to, really is actually small. I am surprised there is no native bluelight filter (redshift, twilight, etc) but I guess it might upset all those apps which do this.

The upgrade was painless, it took 42mins as I was watching an American TV show as it upgraded its self.

Generally I’m happy with the state of the upgrade and although I know this is the last upgrade for the Nexus 5x; it might keep the phone going even longer.

Android eink reader wish-list complete?

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

I remembered the blog I wrote over 5 years ago!

In a few things I’d like to see on my Kindle

I’ve gotten into this lovely routine where I have Calibre automatically turns my subscriptions into ebooks for me and then I connect my Kindle to the USB to automatically sync the items. Then I sit in a nice coffee/tea shop reading my google reader unread subscriptions, readitlater, instapaper, etc. With the experimental webkit browser any links I want to check out, I can check them out using the cafe’s public wifi. The only issue is I really want some way of bookmarking with delicious or even readitlater the important stuff that I read.

This is a while ago and of course I switched from instapaper to wallabag. Then installing the actual app on the android tablet completely changes everything. Of course if Google reader still existed I’d install that, but I’m using Greader pro, which does similar with the standard android intent menu. Also added Diigo to replace delicious bookmarks.

I don’t know if you can add bookmarklets to the experimental webkit browser but that would be ideal.

My other alternative is some kind of note taking app on the kindle its self. I know you can add annotations to books but it seems getting them off isn’t as straight forward as it should be. Although I love just being able to read stuff on the kindle screen, I wouldn’t mind some blogging app. The keyboard is not bad and being able to draft up a blog entry would be great, specially when you google reader on the device its self. I’m also wondering if I can make use of Conduit again to do some transferring of notes, like I had planned for my Sony Ereader.

I have simplenote installed on the tablet, but also google tasks. The keyboard isnt bad so typing a blog post might not be ideal but I can start drafting one. Once again as I’m using the actual android app and they all have their own syncing mechanism when theres connectivity.

So in ideally I’d like to see a full blogging app, a browser with bookmarklets and Ideally a evernote client.

I can draft a blog with simplenote, save bookmarks and links via diigo and store notes in google tasks & simplenote.

Its all good, well almost

Of course now I’d like Bluetooth for access to a physical keyboard and maybe speakers/headphones and some tweaks to the software, especially around the previous/next buttons. Ideally USB C over Micro USB and although I have seen one OS update already; I’m still interested to see what happens if they upgrade to Android 5+. Material design seems very incompatible with the current generation of eink/epaper screens unfortunately.

How to copy contacts from Windows phone to Android, without going crazy

Nokia Lumia 635 and HTC Desire 635

Short answer: Setup a Microsoft Outlook account on the windows phone, sync everything to it then export a CSV of all the contacts on a laptop. Login to your Google account on the laptop and import them all. Sync that google account with the Android phone.

My painful experience

My dad has had a Nokia Lumia 635 for a while (over a year). He wanted to upgrade his ageing Nokia and went into Carphone warehouse to get a upgrade. The sales person must have rubbed their hands (I felt they took advantage of my dad saying he wanted a Nokia) and sold him a Nokia Lumia with Windows Phone on it. I was pretty pissed about this because my dad already has a google account, chromebook and my mum has this and a Samsung android phone.

On Boxing day we went back and looked into buying him out of his contract. This was fine and he choose a HTC desire 626 as it had a big screen and didn’t cost anything to his contract. After taking it home, I set it up for him and boy did the fun start.

Some quick things… I’m running Ubuntu on a laptop, my parents have a chromebook, we all have google accounts and we now all have android phones. My parents are not technical and mainly use text and voice. They have broadband with wifi in the house plus a chromecast I bought a few years ago. The Nokia couldn’t connect to any wifi unless it was open with no security/encryption (I tried many ways to get this working but it seems to be a common fault, which requires a total wipe!)

Nokia Lumia 635

I plugged the Nokia into my Ubuntu laptop then copied everything off it I could see. Then copied it to the HTC phone, I also turned off my WPA security on my Nexus 5x phone to allow the Nokia to actually connect to the internet without using my dads low 4g data usage. Then setup his google account which I set to sync everything. When trying to sync contact information with the google account nothing would sync. I had my laptop open with the google account so I could see what was syncing and what wasn’t. I tried forcing the sync and Windows phone kept forcing me to sync with Outlook.com. In the end I setup a temporary outlook account and synced everything with that. I could see things syncing correctly on my laptop screen.

I thought with both accounts on the Windows phone it would now sync but no. So I had to export the lot out of Outlook.com on the laptop as a CSV file then import them into the google account via my laptop. Once syncing, I could setup the google account on the Android phone and everything was good except Gmail automatically creates a group for the imported contacts which I had to delete but keep the contacts.

HTC Desire 820_11

Once that was done, I forced a system update and greeted with the Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) upgrade, meaning my mums new phone and dads phones are very similar making the learning experience a little easier between both my parents.

Ultimately I was quite shocked how difficult a simple thing task was. I mean dataportability should be simple and at one point I was going to give up and get my dad to write out all the contacts to a new his new phone. It wasn’t helped by not having wifi access on the Nokia. I did try Bluetooth and sending contacts as emails but nothing quite worked.

I hope this helps others as I was tearing my hair out to get such a simple thing working. No wonder Nokia has dumped Windows mobile and gone Android.

Open hamachi replacement?

Fiber optic bokeh

I wrote this 6 years ago, while looking at VPNs…

I use to love Hamachi, it use to simply work and it was very secure. The only problem is it got picked up by log me in and therefore hasn’t been developed in the way I would have liked. The Windows version has been developed but the linux and mac version are lagging behind in the lab. I also would like to see a Android app like how someone created a Windows mobile version.

Its been a while since I looked at VPNs for different purposes including privacy, anonymity, tunnelling, etc. I really wanted something like Hamachi mainly because Tor can do so much around anonymity, but there are things which I’d like to do like I was on my own network (tunnelling). Hamachi worked very simply and made something quite complex very simple.

I was looking at a few options including Bitmask, FreeLAN, Tinc VPN, WireGuard and ZeroTier. It needed to be open source or actually free software licensed. It needs to run on Linux and Android at least. I don’t mind if its got a commercial service, but I should be able to migrate away without having to replace everything again. It should also be straight forward, extensible, secure and work closely like standard networks. This is why I loved Hamachi, once you had a 5.x.x.x address, everything else just clicked.

I tried all but the ones which stuck out for me are Bitmask which is trying to build a complete system including secure email, vpn and hosting. I originally looked at Zeronet for the hosting side of things and I keep looking at GPG for secure email but its not high on my list currently. Bitmask seems too much, its a client of the LEAP project. One to keep an eye on in the future. FreeLan looked like a perfect replacement for Hamachi but having no gui was a real pain. I don’t mind messing with config files but sometimes I’d like to see whats happening without scrolling through the terminal. Tinc and Wireguard were cool but ZeroTier was ideal.

Zerotier runs on everything, the client is actually GPL v3. Its mainly command line/terminal for linux but easily installed and although you can do everything that way. Its not completely decentralised as you have a server which points the clients at each other. Once thats done, they can talk without the pointer. You can also setup your own server of course. At the server end, its The server allows you to configure the network which the clients join. You can also reject clients, add certs, etc. Its all so easy with a browser interface.

Now I’m connected over this VPN, I can do things like SSH, access my router settings without going via the WAN interface (something I hated about Hyperoptic’s router as its administrative login was on a WAN/public interface). This also means I don’t need to worry so much about securing PlexPy, Sickrage, etc, etc. This saves messing with certs. You can share networks across this too, allowing you to route networks; very useful when trying to get around web blocking, For example I was surprised my 3 tethered 4G connection was restricted to only ports 80 & 443 while roaming abroad.

ZeroTier seems to have everything at the moment, I am impressed and doesn’t take many resources which is great for mobile devices. Its simply another network but heavily encrypted.

Highly recommended so far…

Android eink tablets are a dream reader?

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

I recently bought a Energy Pro HD 6 inch tablet from Amazon (oh the irony) to kind of replace my Kindle Paperwhite 2.

I wrote about my thoughts previously in passing

I just discovered Wallabag to replace Instapaper. Before I was using readitlater which became Pocket. I switched to Instapaper because of the deliver a mobi ebook to kindle every morning feature (heck I pay for this feature). But since i’m considering a epaper display android tablet which means it could read anything including PDF, RSS, ePub and Mobi. Plus I wouldn’t lose my kindle books because the Amazon app will run on it too. Having a smarter epaper device will squeeze out instapaper and likely mean I will read even more than I currently do (well worth the investment). I still far prefer to read longer stuff on a epaper display.

but its time to dig more into it. Especially because there are quite a few people interested in a critical review

I heard about eink/epaper tablets running Android a while ago but hadn’t really done any more research. Then I saw a friend at work with one he just bought. I had a little play and pretty much decided I was getting one.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

The tablet is multitouch (which is weird on a eink display), runs about the same rez as my kindle paperwhite. Its almost the exact size including the thinness. Unboxing was nice and you tell they had spent a little time thinking about that experience. Its also eink not epaper which most people won’t care about but eink is a registered product, and usually more expensive that epaper (which the Pebble watch for example uses).

Its battery life so far seems pretty good. I turned off notifications, turned on wifi and no shutdown mode which you can enable if you want stupid battery life. So as I write this, I have charged it once when unboxed and its on 71% battery and thats over 2 days ago. There is a standby mode it switches to after a while, once again this can be set and changed in the settings. The one thing which is a pain is you can’t set a actual lock, which is something to consider as you hook up your google account. I disabled my gmail and other things.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

Putting in the google account details was a bit of a pain due to my very long password and 2 factor auth. I was tempted to put keepass on it but the keyboard is the default google jelly bean one and theres no auto suggest stuff. You don’t want to type a lot of stuff on this tablet, especially with the screen refreshing. Its good for short notes, but not writing a essay. If it had Bluetooth, you could connect a bluetooth keyboard but it doesnt.

That is the big advantage of the ereader/tablet. Unlike others, there is a massive store of apps which can be put on the device (including a lock screen I assume). Currently I have Wallabag, Instapaper, Greader, Tasks, Wikipedia, Simplenote, Google drive, Amazon Kindle and a couple more thing installed. It comes with a file manager, a epub/mobi/pdf book reader and few other things like a comic book reader.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

I always wanted Kindle apps to take notes, etc but Amazon kept tight control over that SDK. Because of this the ecosystem of apps was super limited, making it almost useless. There are some apps which just don’t work on the ereader, mainly because they are built for Android 5.x (lollipop) upwards. The reader comes with a special launcher which is simple and mainly monotone, I can see it working for Android 4.4 (kitkat) but not Android 5, 6, 7 due to material designs user interface requirements. Not sure how security will work on this device, as Google isn’t doing patches for such old operating systems but thats another reason to keep it simple.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

Another thing the ereader has is MicroSD storage. I threw all my ebooks on to a 1gig micro SD card and it indexed them all no problem. Sure I could put much higher storage in the device but 1gig holds a lot of ebooks, even PDFs. It also has the default Android mass storage file transfer and MTP mode when plugging in a MicroUSB cable for charging and storage. The backlight seems to be almost exactly the same as the Kindle paperwhite 2 with the same level of light but it seems brighter.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

In the first few days of using this device, I’m amazed how useful it is and why I didn’t ditch my kindle earlier. Just the ability to read epubs on a eink screen makes it winner in my book. Actually reading books on it is simple and not much different that reading on the kindle. I did find the Amazon app painful to read with but its just the app chrome which isn’t setup to deal with eink displays. Greader and instapaper are almost perfect with the ability to use the volume buttons to control the page. The side keys on the device are really just volume keys, but the device has no sound at all. Having audio would be a massive plus agreed…

I expect I’ll write another review in the coming months but right now I’m a big fan and can’t wait to drop this in jacket pocket instead of the kindle. Will have to think about who might want my 2nd hand kindle for xmas…?

Theres a much more detailed review of the Ereader vs the Kindle if thats what you are after right now. But expect a follow up…

Instant Apps are the most fascinating thing

I like Dieter Bohn, was blown away by Google IO’s demonstration of instant apps.

The basic idea is simple: when you click on a link, if that link has an associated Instant App at the URL you get a tiny version of that app instead of the website. We played around with it a bit today at Google IO, and found that it was as fast (if not faster!) than loading up a web page with the same functionality. It works because developers can “modularize” their apps so they only serve you the parts that you need for whatever you clicked on — points on a map, a video, some home listings, a payment system, or whatever.

But take that idea and think on it a second: there’s a whole class of apps that you use once and never want to bother with again. Google’s example is a parking meter app. It works better as an app because it ties into Android Pay, but honestly you don’t want that thing cluttering up your app drawer most of the time.

YES!

This is why I tend to keep my Nexus 5X phone quite clean and clear of apps, I upload apps to my Nexus 7. If at all possible. Its discipline and I’ll be honest a bit of a pain, as my Nexus 7 relies on Wifi for network connectivity, but generally I think through the positives and negatives of installing each app and where it should go before hitting install.

Recently I installed the Easyjet app on my nexus 7, just so I didn’t have to print out my boarding pass (I have no printer and kinda hate printing). I used the app twice over a period of a week and that was it, uninstalled and gone. If I had instant apps, I would have been very happy with using it instead. Theres also other apps I just need for one task, like at a conference to vote (hey Thinking Digital & Herb), instant apps would so solve this problem; and if really that fast…!

Yes I hear the privacy concerns, but maybe it could be a standard android chooser/selector. Go to the play store and install the app, use instant app or force the service to give me a mobile alternative version.

Yes I hear, developers need to write their apps in a more structured way. But there can’t be much wrong with that? I remember back when I was still in Bristol, a talk about streaming apps, well its almost getting there; although I’m sure many will argue the webapp has already made this a reality.