I bought a Chromebook

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.

OkCupid founder on online dating…

dating-against-humanity-31-638

I almost choked on my coffee this morning at breakfast while reading what Christian Rudder – co-founder and former CEO of OkCupid, Harvard alumnus and author of Dataclysm. Wrote about the online dating industry…

Dating is rough. That’s why there are always so many dating startups: Because users of dating startups are always like, ‘God, this thing is broken, I’m going to fix it.’ What they don’t realize is that dating itself is the thing that’s kind of horrible and no app is ever going to fix that.

Interesting take on the problems related to online dating… although I still think the dating industry is endemiclily corrupt. Dating is very rough, I agree but I think its over shadowed by the lies and false promises of the industry which capitalise on this. Of course this is what I think but… I’d love to ask Christian directly what he thinks?

Data, dating apps and the harsh consequences of permissions

Tinder

Angie reminded me of something I forgot to wrote about many months ago. She pointed at BBC’s you and yours programme.

People who use dating apps to meet potential new partners have told You & Yours that they’re concerned about their privacy, after finding that Facebook has gained access to the details of people they’ve been speaking to. The names of people they’ve been matched with on the dating apps are appearing in their “suggested friends” on Facebook. We investigate how social media sites access our personal information and how users give their permission.

Yes, this isn’t new…! Dating apps like Hinge and Tinder use you as a matchmaker without your permission.

If you’ve got a robust Facebook friend list filled with single people who use dating apps like Hinge or Tinder, chances are you’ve appeared as a mutual friend between two different matches.

When your face appears as a link between people, you legitimize their connection. You become a topic of conversation, an “in” to launch a potential relationship.

Even if you don’t use these dating apps yourself, your personal information can still appear, because when your friends started using the apps, they gave the services permission to access their friend lists to display in-network matches.

There’s no way to avoid appearing as a mutual friend unless you unfriend everyone using these dating apps or delete your Facebook account. Even if your friend list is private, you’re still visible to these apps as a friend of a user who opted into sharing that information.

The potential consequences could be discomforting. Let’s say there’s a person on your friend list whom you added years ago and about whom you no longer know anything. If he matches with one of your good friends, she might decide to go on a date with him in part because of your online friendship, which can be misconstrued as approval from her social group.

The fact is Facebook has access to that data and when we install these apps, we are givng permission to them to do what they like with that data. Permissions is something which can add a bandaid to things but its not a permanent solution. I must find the bit in the FB EULA which says it basically snoop on and use the data requested from a 3rd party app. You didn’t think FB was doing it out of the kindness of their cold heart did you? Wake up and smell smoke. Its a harsh reality which I think people are still only just waking up to…. Linked data is still a concept which has really been picked up.

Is Medium doing what WordPress dreamed about?

Always wondered if WordPress is missing out to Medium.

Medium is becoming the preferred social platform for thoughtful commentary, provocative essays, and blockbuster enterprise journalism from independent and commercial publishers seeking to instigate meaningful conversations on topics of substance, interest, and import. Here, these conversations push thinking forward where it matters and drive real impact in the world.

Distributed conversations is something I thought WordPress was up to a long while ago. Its certainly easier when you own the platform and can make sweeping changes. Have a look at the way twitter closed off API access to 3rd party apps and services because they wanted to monetize there (literately) platform.

Its what makes me suspect of sinking time and my own thoughts into platforms like Medium and Slack. Yes they can do things which others can’t do currently…

…But I remember platforms like Medium and Slack are not open (even with the XMPP and IRC gateways) and there is a very bad side to this. Chris Messina tweeted recently about a new wordpress move in the middle of the slack fall out

Unfortunately I can’t install Calypso as its OSX only at the moment but its open and theres a hope someone will create a Linux client or even a Chrome/Firefox app?

Maybe WordPress will ultimately show Medium how to do distributed conversations, but in a open way, after all.

As for Slack… I’m still not sure, but I am using it via XMPP instead.

Graceful degradation of apps via permissions under android 6.0

Android 6.0 Marshmallow has a very nice feature, something I have been wanting to see more across all services and applications. Granular permissions, which can be applied and revoked by the user at anytime.

It was obvious that iOS had it right as far as transparent, granular app permissions were concerned, and Android Marshmallow admits as much, because it now has a very similar system. Permissions are asked for as and when they’re needed, rather than all at once during installation.

That gives you a better idea of what’s going on and also let’s you, for example, give Facebook access to your camera but not your contacts. If you want to check which apps have what permissions (and edit them), go to Settings: tap Apps then the cog icon, then choose App permissions.

Android 6.0 permission system
Why does BBC iPlayer Radio need access to my phone?

Since android 6.0 marshmallow, i’ve wanted to try out the app permission tweaker. I’m interested to see what happens when I block certain apps from key permissions. Will they explode will they gracefully handle it and still operate without it?
For example could I run facebook app and deny access to the internet, or local storage? OK that might be a little too far but what about facebook without access to the mic and camera? Surely that would work right?

So I tried it with the Amazon kindle app, which I always thought had too many permissions anyway. I mean why does the kindle app need access to my contacts and my telephone?!

Android 6.0 permission system

Haven turned them off, I thought I’d better see if the app still actually worked?

Android 6.0 permission system

It did! So I started revoking permissions from apps which I felt didn’t need the permissions. For example Fitbit, which I refused to upgrade in the past due to the permissions.

Android 6.0 permission system

Why does Fitbit need so many permissions anyway!

Android 6.0 permission system

Andorid warms me the app may break as its not written for Android 6.0. But it still works as I want it to., so this has to be a case of them over reaching with the data they want to consume?
Say hello to your new permissions Fitbit, and it works fine when syncing data from the Fitbit.

Android 6.0 permission system

Fitbit better get use to the sandbox I put it in, and they are not the only one!

Android 6.0 permission system
Android 6.0 permission system

This for me is a key part of the VRM infrastructure as Adriana said

If you cannot reject them, if you cannot actually say well, I’m fine with that but not with that, what’s the point?

Great to see it working as expected, graceful degradation of applications based on permissions. I might be able to install Facebook again.

Update

I installed Facebook messenger again with the permissions I felt comfortable with.

Then decided actually I want to break FB messenger as its meant to be written for Android 6.0, so denied it access to my location too.

Installing Facebook messenger under Android 6.0

I can say everything  works, and I haven’t seen any problems so far with my permissions. I did notice you can start to mess with the data usage too, which maybe a way to restrict network usage.?

Facebook home tried, tested and almost uninstalled

Facebook home launcher… What more do I need to say?

Facebook Home

I made the step of replacing Nemus launcher with Facebook home on my HTC One X just to see what its like first hand. And to be honest the reviews on the play store sum it up.. Currently with 2.2 out 5 stars the reviews are worst still.

Derrick Baird – April 14, 2013 – Samsung Galaxy S3 with version 1.0

A good start

I like it, takes some getting use to, but so far I have had no issues with it. I do miss widgets. And it needs some more customization. Its a good start, but has a long way to go to become a permanent UI replacement. Most of the 1 star reviews seem to be by people who dont know what this is or how to use it.]

Demir Bracic – April 16, 2013 – Version 1.0

Its a start but too limited

I think Facebook is on the right track but to me this would be better served as a live wallpaper. If I wanted a phone with no widgets and customization I would have bought an iPhone.

Nathan Watrous – April 14, 2013 – Version 1.0

Too Much…

I tried it ,and to be honest, it just was too much. I would like it better if it was just the lock screen, but it gets annoying. Plus, it hid most of my other apps (namely google ones lol).

Alex Blackie – April 14, 2013 – Version 1.0

Pretty slick

I was hesitant due to a lot of 1 star reviews but if you pay any attention to what you’re getting then it’s not an issue. Sure you can’t use widgets but I never do anyway and the people that complain about that probably rarely use em themselves, akin to dvd players in computers. If youre someone that appreciates minimalism then you’ll like how clean and intuitive this luncher is. You can still use your Phone as you always have, it’s just different.

Horriable Facebook App screen

So what do I think having played with it? Well I still have it on my phone for now but its going to get uninstalled any day now. I hate the window manager, its poor and crappy. On top of that it looks like something out of Android 1.6. Yes say hello to Eclair again, as that tragic shade of grey makes a re-entry on Android. The swipe positioning of your mini head is a little bizarre although to be fair I was introduced to them when I installed Facebook messenger. I also can’t understand why the launcher only shows a small subset of apps? Luckily there is a mode where you can see them all. As mentioned already theres no widgets just apps.

Facebook home daydream

The only part of Facebook Home I actually quite like is the screensaver/lock screen. When turning on the phone, your shown the latest pictures of what your friends have posted to the their timelines with what ever comment they left. Not only that you can actually like and comment back right there without unlocking the phone. Security wise I couldn’t get into the main Android or launch any apps without using my pass pattern, which is invoked when ever you get to deep (I couldn’t work out if this was because I got fed up of using Facebook’s UI and binded the home key back to Nemus launcher or not.

Replying to a friends status

Yes this does mean if you currently pick up my phone, you can write a stupid comment in reply to a random friends post or even like something which I wouldn’t normally like. This for me isn’t the end of the world but could cause some embarrassing circumstances once in a while.

Frankly this is the only part of Facebook home I quite like (although I also don’t like the battery usage) as a screensaver its quite neat and the ability to reply and like is very useful. I wonder why Twitter and more likely Google Plus haven’t done the same before?  Scratch the rest of Facebook Home, this is the bit which is cool.

Liking Chris's status

Interestingly when installing Jelly Bean (4.2 not 4.1)  on my tablet I found a new feature which I had heard about but had been pretty much ignored in the press. Daydream. Daydream can work like the parts of Facebook Home I like. In actual fact I already found a few nice extras I’m looking to give a shot soon. Maybe this a serious reason why I should root my HTC one x too?

Back to Facebook home… This comment sums up my thoughts too

Holden Kass – April 14, 2013 – HTC One X with version 1.0

Good lock screen

That’s all I use it for it runs great with adw launcher

Or for me it plays nicely with Nemus launcher, but its going to get removed once I find a decent Daydream app.

My Nemus Launcher setup

Build for asynchronous communication

When I was at University studying Interaction design many moons ago. We once had a live brief set by Mitsubishi. This was believe it or not in the hay days of 2.5g aka GPRS and if your lucky EDGE. However the promise of these mobile technologies was the ability to be online all the time.

I wrote my dissertation about the promise of 3G and how it ultimately was hype which the consumer would be let down by. Watching 4G you could pretty much replace the number…

but what I’m more concerned about is the amount of apps which assume your online always.

This seems insane specially with the amount of tablets which only have Wifi & Bluetooth connections.

A couple which have really bugged me recently…

Instapaper
I like Instapaper specially when they introduced the option to send your list to the Kindle for free. In fact I dropped Pocket/Read it later soon after that. Heck I’m even a subscriber paying my 1 pound per month for the service. The instapaper apps on Android mainly are all good but when saving a post out of my Google Reader to Instapaper its failed due to not being online! This is frankly stupid. A few I have tried include PaperMill (my current Instapaper reader), Everpaper, Papermache and many more. So bad, I actually have the one app (send to instapaper) which does it correctly installed along side Papermill.

From the developer of send to instapaper,

Save a URL to Instapaper to read later even if your phone is not currently connected to Internet.

I wrote this app because all available Instapaper clients on the Market fail to work in offline mode. When I decide to bookmark a URL in Instapaper these apps make a request to Instapaper server right away. They of course fail if I am not on the Internet, a common situation when I am reading on my phone in Prague subway on my way to work.

This “Send To Instapaper” app is intelligent enough to know the phone is not online. It would store user requests in a little database and submit them to Instapaper.com later when the phone gets connected to Internet.

And the developer is so right… Its not hard it just takes a little thinking about the user scenarios.

I wish it was just a one off but its not and the developers should be frankly ashamed.

An experiment in mobile dating…

OKCupid!

For years now I’ve been dating using websites and speed dating. I have also at the same time been reading people’s accounts of there dating, such as 52 first dates. Every once in a while I moan about the lack of transparency and data from dating sites and if you know me, sometimes over a couple of drinks I swear I’m going to write a book about my dating experiences.

So with all that in mind, I read the blog post “taking my dating life mobile a social experiment” with a lot of interest.

Basically Senior Writer for ReadWrite.com Dan Rowinski is going to use mobile dating apps to gage there success rates in finding love. Of course there is rules…

I have to set some parameters here, or this type of experiment could completely take over my life. So here are my ground rules:

Parameters

  • I will actively use dating apps for at least one month to meet actual people.
  • I will use a variety of apps (Android and iOS) to get a good sense of their depth and variety.

What I Will Do

  • Approach each connection with an open mind and respect.
  • Apply the rule of “half your age plus seven” to how old a date has to be (nobody in their late teens or very early 20s).
  • Notify dates that I am writing a series on dating apps.
  • If I make a meaningful connection and start a fledgling relationship with someone I meet, I’ll terminate the experiment.

What I Won’t Do

  • I won’t actively use the dating apps to just look for a “hookup.” No trolling for sex on my smartphone.
  • I won’t recount much in the way of specific details about my dates. Yes, I’ll share a few anecdotes here and there, but if you’re looking for salacious gossip, click elsewhere.
  • I won’t do anything to endanger my physical, emotional or financial safety.
  • I won’t lie to make myself look better or misrepresent myself in any way.
  • I won’t ignore possible connections in real life that didn’t originate on my smartphone.

The Apps I’ll Be Using
I chose the following apps because they represent a good cross section of new, interesting, location-based, social and traditional approaches. I won’t be using any traditional websites affiliated with the services, should they exist. For instance, when I use eHarmony or Match, I’ll only use those sites through their apps and over email to my phone. Here they are:

  • Let’s Date – Popular new app that allows to browse anonymously for connections.
  • Tinder – Location-based app that allows you to see who’s nearby, their pictures and snippets from their Facebook profiles.
  • eHarmony – There should be at least one traditional dating site in here to provide a counter to mobile-only apps.
  • OkCupid – It’s free and has a decent app.
  • Blendr – Among the several sub-tier dating apps in contention, I’m going with Blendr just because it looks the least troll-y.
  • Martini (if applicable) – Group dating app that just came to the Apple App Store.

Now the question is do I join in and try it out for myself?

In the past I have used Okcupid and Plenty of Fishes mobile apps and its been fun in some cases.

Don’t get me wrong I’m interested to find out what could happen and find out if mobile dating is any good or not. Mobile dating is a different take on the same idea? I did propose this as something different a while ago.

Mobile Apps working together to better support the user

I just started using Astrid on my HTC Desire (Running android 2.2) and I’m very impressed. The thing which amazes me is the integration with Locale.

Yes it a task app but the difference is with Locale, you can set conditions. Conditions like show me this task when I’m in certain location. Show me this task when you walk into a wifi signal with a certain SSID. Show me a task when blah blah blah…

Unfortunately it seems I’m behind the curve on this one. The locale team blogged about this last year.

I put on my todo list all sorts of tasks. Sometimes they are work tasks like “fill out my expense report.” Occasionally, I add random ideas like “ask the dentist about electric toothbrushes.” More frequently I add personal tasks like “get bananas.” With Locale + Astrid, I get reminders for these tasks when I can do something about them. By tagging tasks as “groceries” and connecting the tag to a situation in Locale (for example when I am near my local Trader Joe’s), Astrid will remind me to get bananas the next time I’m near the store. In the same way I can limit Astrid’s pestering me about my expense report to times I am in the office. And the next time I am sitting in the dentist chair, Astrid can alert me to get his take on the latest teeth-cleaning gadget.

While there are many tools that provide a place to save information you want to remember, most of them lack reminders when you need them. Locale gives Astrid the power to do this in an amazingly simple way, making Astrid less annoying and much more useful.

Exactly!

So theres a interesting trend of apps building on other apps. I noticed this with Dropbox. I got a feeling that because Dropbox has been out for the iPhone for longer, there might be more tightly integration that on android at the moment. But I noticed quite a few apps are using dropbox as there syncing method instead of creating there own. Its not just syncing there’s a lot more that comes with using dropbox as the storage method.

Whats also weird is I’m now expecting dropbox syncing as standard in a lot of the apps I download. After that I’m also expecting some kind of locale ability.

In actual fact, if I was to improve Astrid, I would indeed the ability to use dropbox and create tasks using a very simple XML format. It currently syncs with Google Tasks but I’ve not really got that syncing with Evolution or anything else yet, so something else would be great.

I’ll be watching this trend of apps working off the back of other apps more closely.

Apple OSX App store grumble

In a recent Techgrumps podcast we ripped into the notion of Apple including an App Store in the next release of OSX Lion. This is from the Apple…

We took our best thinking from Mac OS X and brought it to the iPhone. Then we took our best thinking from the iPhone and brought it to iPad. And now we’re bringing it all back to the Mac with our eighth major release of the world’s most advanced operating system.

When I first heard about the App store I laughed it off thinking well you know what Ubuntu has a app store as such (repository) but the major difference is in the way they are run.

Ubuntu’s repository is a pretty straight forward open democratic place and if you don’t like it, you can remove there repository and put in your own. I have for example in my app store (as such) ubuntu’s ppa, canonical partners, covergloobus, gloobuspreview, handbreak snapshots, jessyink, ubuntu desktop, gwibber daily, xbmc, dropbox, getdeb and opera ppa’s. This is very similar to the approach Boxee has done with its own repository. So ultimately I choose what I want and where I get it from. However, the question is, will the Apple OSX app store also follow this route or will the paranoid Apple force developers to go through Apple’s own process to get apps into the app store?

Something tells me the answer is very obvious…

A few things I’d like to see on my kindle

My Kindle

So 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.

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.

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

Come on say it with me, Evernote on a wireless kindle would be amazing and dare I say a killer app for the kindle3.