Over 10 years of serious Ubuntu

Desktop Screenshot

Its ironic to hear Microsoft Windows Vista has finally come to its end of life (i’d argue it was dead on arrival), it was the move to Vista which sparked me to stop running Linux on a spare machine/as a second operating system and wipe windows XP off. One day I decided enough playing around, I’m not moving to Vista, I’m moving to Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn.

Before then I was playing with Knoppix, Debian and earlier versions of Ubuntu 6.06 and 6.10 but it was 7.04 when I took things serious. Since then I’ve not really looked back. It quite amazing to think how Ubuntu has changed over the last 10 years, especially with Unity and Gnome; but the dominance of linux generally is fascinating.

BBC vows, to finally make it digital

BBC Microbit

Finally after so many peoples attempts to kick start the BBC Micro revolution for the 21 century. The BBC has finally announced its partnership with Google, Microsoft and Samsung to place the Microbit in the hands of children across the UK.

The BBC director general has pledged to do for coding and digital technology what the BBC Micro did for the emerging home computing era in the 1980s.

Tony Hall was speaking after he unveiled details of the BBC’s Make It Digital initiative, a partnership with 50 organisations, including Google, Microsoft and Samsung, that will give ‘micro bit’ coding devices – around 1m of them – to every 11-year-old in the country.

The BBC will launch a season of programmes and online activity, including a drama based on Grand Theft Auto and tie-ups with Doctor Who, EastEnders, and Radio 1.

Hall compared the initiative to the BBC Micro, built by Acorn Computers, which was many children’s first experience of computing 30 years ago.

I can tell you this has been a long time coming and there are some seriously amazing people who have been directly and indirectly involved in the very long run up to this.

So many in-fact, I feel if I was to start naming them, I would do a massive injustice to many many people who tried and etched away at the BBC to allow others to make their voices heard. I once tried to do a mind map of the people connected, and I still have it from many years ago.

I can’t wait to see the microbit in kids hands and see the unthinkable things they will do with it. Its been very well thought out and I love the fact its not trying to replace anything else including the RaspberryPI.

What happened to Ubuntu Unity across all devices?

Ubuntu devices

Interesting to think about while watching the Microsoft Windows 10 launch… What even happened to the Ubuntu on Android?

Update: A number of friends commented on my blog entry.

Jas finds an engadget entry talking about how the launch will be limited to Europe and the East.

How can we ever trust the 5 stacks?

There is a lot to be said about Aral Balkan‘s talk from The Next Web conference (I gather his RSA talk had less technical problems). However I heard and saw it live at Thinking Digital 2014 a few days ago. Like when I heard him talk at Thinking Digital 2013, there was so much I wanted to say in return.

I agree on some level that its about the user experience, I disagree open source and free software is a lie, waste of time and not really free (Aral cleared up the fact he was talking about cost not freedom) Picking the low hanging fruit is certainly entertaining but is unfair, for example Mozilla’s dependence on Google is eye watering but there was no mention of Ubuntu, with their own phone, tablet, TV and computer operating system. I mean Ubuntu totally redesigned their operating environments to work consistently across all of them.

Thinking Digital 2014

During Thinking Digital most of the people I spoke to after Aral’s talk were unaware of most of the problems. I was frankly a little shocked and annoyed this was news to many smart people. But thinking about it some more, Aral’s calls to action afterwards were missing, so most people just felt like it was hopeless. (Maybe a little scaremongering?) Just what you want to ponder over at lunch time…?

I don’t blame Aral (although it always sounds like I have beef with him always), he highlighted the problem but if he included a few thoughtful practical actions (Although as Aral points out, his main takeaway/action was to create Indie Tech alternatives), it could be less gloomy and less fearful…

  1. Read the EULA (End User License Agreement) even skimming it will help you understand whats going on. (although I totally understand how verbose and how hard they are to understand.
  2. Take some responsibility for your own actions
  3. Take an interest and set your limits for issues like net neutrality, copyright, security, privacy, etc.
  4. Support the Open Rights Group (and others fighting for your online rights)
  5. Evaluate the services you use on cost in time, cost in privacy and cost in ownership. Everyone has a figure/percentage, if you don’t… get one!

The Big Picture - Open Rights Group

As mentioned in my post from the quantified self 2014, everyday its becoming even more difficult to trust any of the stack/cloud providers. Not only is the EULA changing more times that is reasonable but there’s some seriously messed up (law breaking) things happening.

Google, Facebook and Amazon have shown us again this week why the combination of a quasi-monopoly, vested interests and an inscrutable algorithm can be a dangerous thing for internet users, since it allows them to influence what we see, know and buy.

Don’t even get me started on Facebooks new messenger app which listens and Apple’s EULA which Norway agrees is over convoluted. The 5 stacks just can’t help themselves but comb through our data and when that runs out they want even more. Its certainly the main business model of the early 21st centenary but it doesn’t have to be that way. Very interesting when put in the context of Mariana Mazzucato’s fast paced talk from Thinking Digital 2014.

public vs private sectors

Even quasi-monopolies can be toppled or made to operate within the realms of public good and moral acceptable. We just need to be smart and work together. This is partly why I’m going to make my way down to Brighton for Indie Tech summit.

Although I’m writing about Aral’s talk again, he’s wasn’t the best of the conference. Sure I’ll go into plenty of detail in the next post.

Update – Jo from Indiephone has wrote a follow up piece about this post clearing up some of my points.

What a waste of all that power…

Xbox

Adrian retweeted a post from the Guardian about Microsoft commissioning original content and popular stuff like Game of Thrones.

Microsoft’s move into original programming pitches it deep into Netflix and Amazon territory in the battle to control the living room. The company has so far publicly revealed a slate of just six shows that will air on its Xbox games console – including a Steven Spielberg-produced TV series based on its hit game franchise Halo, a documentary on former console giant Atari, and a remake of Swedish scifi drama Humans in conjunction with Channel 4. However, the intention is to build a TV powerhouse.

My instant thought was… what a waste of all that power. Not only processing power but sensors and data. In my opinion, if Microsoft were smart they would commission content which is perceptive. Make it exclusively for xbox users and narrow the gap between TV and Games. For goodness sake they already have the ability to layer graphics over the top of programming using the HDMI pass through!

Its almost a crying shame that they have all this in place but seem doomed to follow the rest of the industry. Specially with all those patents they have in this area!

Disruptive this is not… yes another step towards another stack growing but not a leap forward

Remix with a new Surface

Surface with the remix project attached

Simon tweeted me about the Microsoft’s idea of a new remix platform. Some instantly thinking I wouldn’t be interested because heck its nothing like the now legendary pacemaker. My negativity is centred around things like Armin’s project which to be honest isn’t so great (still don’t know what he put his name to it).

The Surface remix project isn’t a DJ platform but rather a remix platform. Yes you could do a little mixing on it but realistically it for making music. The thing which got me interested was the interface. From what I understand about the Microsoft surface is that the keyboard is clicked on, but what if you could click other types of inputs in? It would certainly beat the problem of touching glass.

Will this extended beyond the one smart modified smartcover? I doubt it, Microsoft are well known for wanting to control everything but then again what they did with the Xbox Kinect was good news, although I’ve not seen anything like this recently. If it was a open source project with open and published hardware and software specs, I would be a lot more interested.

I’ll keep an eye on it but I don’t hold out hope for anything ground breaking…

The ammyy scam: the worst social engineering I’ve ever heard

Email Scam

For some stupid reason which I have no idea… I got 3 calls from a call centre while I was at home trying to work today.

It got to be a bit of joke by the second call because with the first call I got so peed off about what they were trying to tell me I just hung up after 30secs. When someone called again, claiming to be calling from Microsoft customer support, this time I playing along with this call just to waste there time and work out what they wanted me to do so i could warn other people not to follow the steps.

Caller: open Internet Explorer and type in ammyy.com.

Caller: click to download and install ammyy

Me: I can’t do that (lies of course)

Caller: Why not? click the link and choose install.

Anyway that went on and on for about 20mins, and so of course I hit Twitter with some funny bits I was hearing on the phone. By the time I finished… I was doing stuff like using the toilet and saying I was still in front of the windows XP machine (I would have thought the sound of me peeing would be a clear clue that I wasn’t really listening)

By the time it finished, Nic Ferrier suggested I should record them next time they call. So I did, but I didn’t catch the start of the conversation, so I started recording about 10-15mins in. Here’s the recording with a con-artist.

Recording-1 with a con-artist by cubicgarden

It is a scam (so popular its actually called the ammyy scam) as you can guess but weirdly it does actually catch people out… [1][2][3]

Hopefully the recording will help raise the profile of this scam and stop other people falling for this frankly terriable social engineering scam.

Kinect the fast growing, all down to the hackers

Sony’s War on Makers, Hackers, and Innovators

Microsoft announced today that it has sold 10 million Kinect sensors since the Xbox 360 accessory launched in November. In addition, Microsoft reported that over 10 million Kinect games have been sold. The global sales figures, according to a company spokeswoman, were tallied through the end of February.

Since its launch, Kinect–which allows gamers to control on-screen action with only the movement of their bodies rather than a controller–has surpassed expectations. Microsoft initially expected to sell 5 million Kinect units through 2010. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, however, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that the company actually sold 8 million units through the end of the year.

Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-20041213-17.html

Although I’m really happy the Microsoft Kinect has outsold even the Apple iPad, The Nintendo Wiimote, Halo, etc. One thing no one seems to be mentioning is the fact Microsoft made that massive U Turn on people hacking the Kinect.

There is no doubt in my mind that being hacker friendly made all the difference. In actual fact if there was a graph of sales, I bet after the first rush to get a kinect, things were steady before sales went a little crazy once someone hacked the kinect. After Microsoft did the whole U turn, sales must have gone through the roof.

I look forward to seeing the increase sales once the SDK comes out. Microsoft are on a roll, now if only Sony, Apple, etc would see the benefits of working with the hacker community.

Hacker friendly: Microsoft turns over a new leaf?

I never thought I’d see the day but it seems Microsoft have really got into the hacker spirit recently. I mean what would Bill Gates say about this new leaf of openness, who knows… but I can imagine a shudder of fear slowly tingling up his spine.

Remember Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering by Andrew bunnie Huang

"Hacking the Xbox" confronts the social and political issues facing today’s hacker. The book introduces readers to the humans behind the hacks through several interviews with master hackers.

"Hacking the Xbox" looks forward and discusses the impact of today’s legal challenges on legitimate reverse engineering activities. The book includes a chapter written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) about the rights and responsibilities of hackers, and concludes by discussing the latest trends and vulnerabilities in secure PC platforms.

Its not just phone 7, Kinect kicked off a new attitude for Microsoft. Good on them, but I do wonder how long it will last?

A side point

I was a little excited when I discovered Rafael Rivera was one of the people behind the phone 7 unlocking. But of course he’s not to be confused with the new BBC director of Future media Ralph Rivera. That would be so weird if it was…

Time to hack the Pacemaker

Pacemaker in my Hand

I love my pacemaker but Tonium have really screwed the community of pacemaker djs.

It started when they moved lets mix from a pacemaker community to a generic dj community. I understand the reason why they did it but the pacemaker only djs were pretty much invaded by all types of other djs. Tonium did setup a getsatisfaction account and people started using that to voice there concerns. But after a few years, get satisfaction reports Pacemaker monitors but is not active in this community. There hasn’t been a update in years now and there’s still plenty of outstanding issues.

My pacemaker is still working as good as it always has but I could certainly do with a replacement battery. It currently lasts about 2 hours while recording is on, it use to last about 5 hours.

I couldn’t get the Pacemaker editor working with Wine again, so I finally switched to using VirtualBox (virtualisation) the closed source version because you have to use the USB to talk to the Pacemaker. It is a pain having to drag the mixes over and export them but it does work.

Open source Pacemaker

on the forums

Amias Channer wrote 1 day ago

has anyone reported tonium to the eff for GPL violations ? you are required to make source code available if you use GPL’ed code and the EFF have a legal fund to force companies to do this tonium, please save yourself a lot of money (you will have to pay their expenses) and publish the damn code. its not hard to do. i will help you if you don’t know how.

musicinstinct commented 1 day ago

I noticed if you go into settings on the device, select ‘about’ and then ‘legal notice’, then scroll down to the bottom you will find a notice that source code is available by sending 5 EUR to GPL Compliance Manager at Tonium AB. I wonder if anyone has tried this and successfully received it?

Amias Channer commented 1 day ago

http://getsatisfaction.com/pacemaker/…
this thread suggests that they have been refused every time.

So it looks like Tonium could be in breech of the GPL, but this may take a long time to resolve its self.

So its time to hack the pacemaker

I said for a while since the pacemaker does actually mount on Linux, it should be easy to hack it specially because it seems to store everything in .pacemaker and uses a SQLlite database for most of its things.

Musicinstinct wrote

I’ve also managed to access the tracks database using sqlite manager in Ubuntu, but in order to successfully install new tracks I would need to create the metadata. This is an XML file and should be doable if we can reverse engineer the format of the beat mapping data, or get access to the source code.

So now its the race to understand the XML format and create a schema which works with the pacemaker. Of course there is now another forum if your interested in following the hacking.

Fun times ahead…

The end of the road for Windows Home Server?

Just read about the changes to the Windows Home Server on my Kindle via Ars Technica.

Microsoft’s Windows Home Server is a funny little product. The company’s ambition when developing the product was to have us all run little home servers: small, low-power, appliance-like machines with some network connectivity and gobs of storage. We’d use these home servers as a place to back up our PCs, share files and printers across our home networks, stream media to our Xboxes, and gain remote access to our files when away from home.

In practice, most of these things can be done perfectly well with a normal desktop version of Windows. Windows Home Server does have some advantages—it had a management front-end that let the server be easily controlled remotely, and it is based on Windows Server 2003 to slim down its own hardware demands—but for the most part, it isn’t doing anything too unusual. As a result, Windows Home Server has remained a niche product. Much loved by its users, but never really making it as a mass-market success.

It does, however, have one special feature, a feature without any real equivalent in any other version of Windows, whether for desktop or for server. That feature is called Drive Extender. Conceptually, Drive Extender is quite simple: it allows multiple hard disks (regardless of interface or size) to be aggregated to provide a single large pool of storage. Folders on the pooled storage could also be selectively replicated, meaning that Drive Extender would ensure that copies of the files were found on multiple physical disks.

It goes on to say HP (one of the biggest supporters of WHS) will no longer be supporting WHS, instead they will be developing there own WebOS.

Engadget is reporting that many of the HP staff previously working on MediaSmart have been redeployed to focus on webOS devices, though any direct webOS-powered equivalent to the MediaSmart systems seems unlikely.

So much for Microsoft Windows Home Server… I got a feeling it was released too early and I do stand by the idea that most people will have a Home Server in there home in the very near future, even with the deluge of online backup services and streaming services.

Microsoft’s forward vision

I don’t get it.

Ubuntu can be a server or a user system but its certainly not a home server. I have no idea what happened to the ubuntu homeserver project but Microsoft have got the upper hand when it comes to servers in the home.

There is a large enough difference between a server in a home and server in a data centre. Microsoft understood this when they launched Windows Home Sever. They could have just re-bundled Windows Server but no they brought out a different cut of Windows Server focused on the home market. Its also different enough from a NAS (network attached storage device) due to its great range of Apps or Add-ons.

I’m not the only one to say this either.

95% of the would-be “nixers” are completely stunned, at that point when the Ubuntu Server installation states that it has finished and all that’s offered to the user is a black screen and a prompt line. Users … basically scrap the whole thing, install Windows and use … solutions which lack raw power but come with an comprehensive interface”

Like all the others I’m pleased to see that you decided to continue this project. I’m a new NAS end user: i first bought a Synology DS410j, but i realized quickly that the processor was far too limited for me. So I made a 4 bay NAS by myself, counting on freenas. My problem is that i use linux a lot (I have a Mythtv server), but i don’t know FreeBSD at all. So the promise of a linux based NAS is a very good news. You can’t blame people to defend their chapel. Don’t listen to them, walk and see ! I assure you that i’ll be among the first switchers and the first donators because your work is useful, there’s no doubt about that.

The closes thing to Windows Home server on Ubuntu is maybe Freenas (which requires you to format all your drives into UFS for the best use, oh and its BSd based. Theres also Amahi which takes over too much of your system (it likes to control the dns, which is a pain if you got a good router).

So what makes a home server?

  • Low Minimum System Requirements
  • Simple Storage Space Management
  • Scalable Architecture
  • Cross-Platform Client Support
  • File/Data Server.
  • Backup/Restore
  • Printer Server
  • Network Functions
  • Remote Access from the Internet

Windows home server does all this really well, Ubuntu Server edition falls very short.

What else is out there? Because to be honest I’m very close to installing Windows Hone server on my home server.

Open Media Vault looks pretty good but its not quite mature enough yet.

Canonical really need to get moving with this stuff… Microsoft had the vision to kick this off, now its time for Linux to lead this area. Just like how Android is now stiring up the mobile world.

Microsoft Joins W3C’s Scalable Vector Graphics Effort

Brendan sent me this one last week, shocking news that Microsoft are joining the SVG working group. To be honest I never thought it would ever happen but hell has somewhat frozen over.

“Microsoft is joining the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Scalable Vector Graphics Working Group. The company announced its aim of improving future versions of the W3C’s scalable vector graphics (SVG) recommendation, currently at version 1.1. The nonprofit W3C’s SVG recommendation is a document that describes two-dimensional graphics processing using XML. The technology can be used for Web graphics, animation and user interfaces…

Lately, Microsoft has been leaning more toward standards compliance with its browser, especially with IE 8, which still lacks native SVG support. In particular, Microsoft contributed test cases to the W3C’s working group on cascading style sheets as it developed IE 8. In a statement, Microsoft suggested it plans to do more such work with the W3C: ‘Making the Web easier for developers continues to be important and we will continue to contribute to development of HTML5, along with other popular Web standards; and we bring a unique value—the rigor of modern software engineering to the process.

I am getting a little worried about SVG, as a lot of people are pushing not just Flash but VML and Canvas in front of SVG. Its incredible how little people know about SVG and vector graphics full stop.

Windows Home Server add-ons in the near future?

Window home server

So I'm still having problems getting my XP laptop to back up to the home server but while looking around I found a load of ideas for what could be added to Windows Home Server to improve its experience even further. I got a few of my own but heres a few I found while looking around.

  1. Memory Stick Backups – A service that will run on my desktop or laptop and automatically back up my USB memory stick whenever I plug it in.  Each memory stick should be backed up to the same location on the server no matter which computer I plug it in to.
  2. Download Manager – Automatically hand off regular downloads from Internet Explorer to be downloaded and stored on my home server.
  3. User Account Sync – Automatically create user accounts on client PCs for each Windows Home Server user account.  Automatically update passwords.
  4. Favorites Sync – Sync my favorites to a folder on WHS. (I know I can do this with foldershare.  Add-in would be much better.)  Also include Desktop Sync, My Documents Sync, etc.
  1. Activesync backups – How cool would it be if Activesync backups were also included in backups but as another machine.
  2. Bit Torrent client/server with TVRSS – Someones got add this one day soon, I mean imagine utorrent or azureus which both can be run headless or from the web, inside of home server. Also imagine being able to make any file or folder a torrent to share with friends and family.
  3. Podcast client – Same as the bit torrent one really but just RSS.
  4. Notifications – I would like to see notifications via email, im and other means.
  5. VPN – VPN tunnel between two or more home servers, so you can maybe sync up with off-site backup or a friends server.
  6. Rar support – Yes I could install Winrar but I don't want to and its about time windows generally supported rar like it supports zip.
  7. Webdav – Ideally it all shares would have the option of being a webdav share too. People are hacking this already using IIS.
  8. DAAP – Someones got to hack this into the home server at some point. I've already noticed people asking for itunes support on the windows home server forum.
  9. XBSP – No where near essential but support for the xbox media centre streaming protocal would be nice too.
  10. Zeroconf – Yes universal plug and play is ok but we need some zeroconf/bonjour/mdns to hook up to things like mac products and some of the devices you can now get.

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