Mike Stone

Opinions too long winded for social media

It's been literal years since I've faithfully updated my blog. The old content has been sitting idly on Wordpress.com in a free account since I canceled the server I had GoDaddy hosting for me. I planned to self host, but having a pseudo-large family and a job that doesn't understand boundaries made the idea of hosting infrastructure in my home less and less appealing. So, things basically stagnated.

Lately I've been feeling the urge to write again, so I started looking at my options. I still didn't want to host in my home. I considered Wordpress since my posts were already there, but it just seemed like more than I needed or wanted. Most of the posts I'd put up before were basic syntactically. To make a long story short, I settled on write.as.

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I’ve been testing out Ubuntu 19.04 lately, but the shell has been feeling a little naked. In the past I’ve really liked the way powerline updates the looks of things so I thought that I’d install that to improve the asthetic. I had a few problems finding instructions that work in the newest version of Ubuntu, so I thought I’d post my results here.

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I've been testing out Microsoft's latest chatbot, Zo. Most of our chats are pretty mundane, and I usually just change the subject when things start to go off the rails.

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I remember when I first saw the Amazon Echo. My first thought was, “Finally!! That is seriously cool!! But Amazon??”

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Virtual assistants are everywhere these days. If you have an Android phone, iPhone, or even a Windows phone, you have a built in virtual assistant. On Android, you have Google Now. On iOS, you have Siri. On Windows, you have Cortana. These aren't even all of your choices. There are more 3rd party assistants than you can shake a stick at. SpeakToIt's Assistant, Hound, Amy, blah blah blah. And that's just on your phone or tablet. If you widen the scope, you can't help but notice Amazon's Echo device.

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Welcome to the future. Well, Dick Tracy's future anyway. The world has now been gifted by “smart watches”.

First, a disclaimer. I love my Moto 360. It's awesome. You can argue that it doesn't do anything that my phone didn't already do, and you're right. In fact, it does less than my phone. I think that's just fine.

Here's what I want from my smartphone.

  1. Notifications
  2. Maps
  3. Activity tracking
  4. Not much else

See, a watch is a convenience. Even non-smartwatches don't do anything that a clock can't do. The reason it's there is it's convenient. I don't want or need it to do anything else, but there are those that disagree with me.

Now, let's ignore the fact that Jonny Evans is a shill for Apple. He's advocating for the Apple watch here, but it really doesn't matter. His idea is that the watch “must ultimately replace the phone.” Personally, I think that's a horrible idea. I think that the watch should be a phone accessory, and that the phone should ultimately replace the computer.

Watch as Phone – Dick Tracy Style

Let's look at how this works. Your watch is your phone. OK, so how do you talk on it? It's not exactly optimally placed to hold it up to your head, so you're going to have to do one of two things.

  1. Speaker phone
  2. External earpiece and microphone

Speaker phones ultimately make any private conversation you're trying to have public. Not to mention the damage powering speakers would have to the battery life of the watch. An external earpiece would be fine, but then you're carrying extra stuff around with you just to make a private call. Neither of these options seems particularly good. Having a watch as an accessory seems like it would be just as effective. There are already several watches on the market that can make a phone call via wifi or bluetooth if connected to a phone. This solution seems like it would provide all the benefits that could be found in a “watch phone”, and only one possible negative: If you're away from WiFi, you have to carry a phone with you.

Phone as Computer - NOT Dick Tracy Style

I see things going the other direction. I see the phone becoming the hub of our digital lives. I've written about this before, but I feel like I need to reiterate some of these points and clarify a little bit. I see, for most people, the phone becoming the only computer they'll ever need. I think that in the near future, computers for the average user, will be overkill. People will own a phone that connects to their data in the cloud. If a person wants a desktop computer, they'll be able to connect a single USB-C connector to their phone that will hook their phone to an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Their OS will automatically detect that they've gone into “desktop mode”, and switch from a single app full screen view to a more typical desktop setup with windowed applications and easy multitasking. They can easily carry their work and home life in a pocket and charge while they're working.

Android is optimally placed for this to work. With it's roots supported by Linux, it can easily accommodate any kind of device. Ubuntu is also a good choice. Android has good support for a mobile setup, but Ubuntu is better supported on the desktop. Both need work, but I'd put my bets on Google. News has already started to spread about a possible convergence between Android and ChromeOS. Google wouldn't have to go full merger to make this work, just borrow some of ChromeOS's functionality and add it to Android. Since both are based on Linux, it's not a huge leap.

I don't mean this for all people. I don't think that desktop computers are going to replace servers any time soon, and I don't think that phones will replace all desktop computers any time soon. There are just some tasks that you're going to need a full workstation for.

Many, even possibly most, of the people I communicate with on a day to day basis will be among those that can never make a phone work as their only computer.

The trick is, the people I communicate with aren't typical users. They code and do graphics and video production. They play games that make the most of what computer hardware has to offer. For these people, a phone is just not going to be a workable solution, but that doesn't meant hat it won't work for most people.

Sorry Dick Tracy, but I think you can keep your watch phone.

Disagree? I'd love to hear your perspective. Where do you think this is going to go?

I've been using Linux now for almost 20 years. I didn't get in on the ground floor, but I wasn't far off. Over the course of those almost 20 years, a pretty solid pattern has developed when it comes to people trying to put Linux down.

I'm sure you've all heard them.

  • Linux is hard.
  • Linux is ugly.
  • Linux doesn't support much hardware.
  • Linux is impossible to fix by humans.
  • Linux breaks after updates.
  • etc.
  • etc.

Some of them used to be right, but they're not anymore. Some of them have never been right. None of them are right now. It seems like every argument I see against Linux is like a trip back in time.

I used to try to correct these people, but over and over I found myself getting in the “someone is wrong on the internet” mentality. I'm not sure correcting individuals is all that useful anyway. These individuals have just read these arguments somewhere else and they're spewing them out virtually verbatim. Until we're able to correct the source of this misinformation, we're not going to make any progress. The counter to that argument is, maybe some of these people are the source of this misinformation (at least to some). Maybe correcting these individuals will help out in the long run.

This post isn't really about solutions. I don't have any. If I did, I'd have solved this problem by now. I guess I'm leaving this up to you guys. Is it better to correct each and every person that spews this nonsense on the Internet, or is it better to pick our battles and not waste our energy unless we can have a larger impact than the individual?

And we're back. Well, I am anyway. I tried an experiment the last couple weeks/months. I found that I wasn't updating my blog as much as I'd wanted to be, and I was spending a lot of time on Google+.

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If you haven't been watching the news today, a big bomb was dropped on Google. The Rockstar consortium (Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft, Ericsson, Sony, and EMC) has sued Google as well as Asustek, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE. Is there an obvious and easy way around Rockstar?

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We've been hearing a lot about Prism lately. It's a big topic and a big deal. I hear excuses for it all the time. “If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” “It's for our security!” Blah blah blah. None of the many excuses I've heard have remotely justified Prism to me. That's one of the many reasons that I rely on Linux to protect my privacy.

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